A Summary of the Law which underpins the Covid-19 Lock-down:
- The “emergency period” will last, in relation to any restriction or requirement under the regulations, until the government issues a direction terminating the restriction or requirement;
- The government must review the need for restrictions and requirements at least every 21 days and the first review must be by 16 April 2020:
- The regulations themselves stipulate that they expire 6 months from 26 March 2020 but could of course be re-enacted if necessary.
Permitted businesses and services
- Food retailers (including food supermarkets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops), off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries), pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists, newsagents, homeware, building supplies and hardware stores, petrol stations, car repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, taxi or vehicle hire businesses, banks, building societies, credit unions, short-term loan providers and cashpoints, post offices, funeral directors, launderettes and dry cleaners, dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services (including services relating to mental health), veterinary surgeons and pet shops, agricultural supplies shops, storage and distribution facilities (including delivery drop-off or collection points) where the facilities are in the premises of a permitted business, car parks, public toilets.
Restricted businesses and services
- Businesses may provide hot or cold food for consumption off the premises, provided there is no sale of it for consumption on the premises, i.e. take-away sales are permitted;
- Except for businesses providing hot or cold food for consumption off the premises, businesses offering goods for sale for hire in a shop or providing library services, not being permitted businesses, may only carry on the business or provide the services in response to orders received through a website or otherwise by on-line communication, by telephone (including orders by text message) or by post;
- They must close any premises which are not required to carry out their business as permitted above and must cease to admit anyone to their premises who is not required to carry on their business or provide their service as permitted above;
- Businesses consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house, must cease during the emergency period;
- Such businesses may however continue to be carried on and premises used in them may be kept open for certain specified purposes, including the provision of accommodation for any person who is unable to return to their main residence, uses the premises as their main residence, needs accommodation whilst they move house, needs accommodation to attend a funeral, the provision of accommodation or support services for the homeless, to host blood donor sessions.
Prohibited businesses and services
- Cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, bingo halls, concert halls, museums and galleries, casinos, betting shops, spas, nail, beauty hair salons and barbers, massage parlours, tattoo and piercing parlours, skating rinks, indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, soft play areas and other indoor leisure centres or facilities, funfairs, playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms, outdoor markets (except for stalls selling food), car showrooms, auction houses must not be carried on during the emergency period;
- But cinemas, theatres, bingo halls, concert halls, museums and galleries may broadcast a performance to people outside the premises, whether over the Internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast (provided no other restriction is contravened thereby);
- Restaurants, café, public houses, bars, hotel and members’ clubs dining rooms and certain workplace canteens must close any premises or part of the premises in which food or drink is sold for consumption on those premises;
- They must also cease selling food or drink for consumption on those premises;
- But sale of food or drink for consumption off the premises is not presently prohibited provided there is no sale of it for consumption on the premises, i.e. take-away sales are permitted;
- Food or drink sold by a hotel or other accommodation such as bed & breakfast, members’ clubs etc as part of room service is not to be treated as sold for consumption on the premises;
- Businesses consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house, must cease during the emergency period except for limited specified circumstances as detailed above;
- Places of worship must be closed during the emergency period, except when used for funerals, to broadcast an act of worship (whether over the Internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast) or to provide essential voluntary services or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency);
- A crematorium or burial ground must be closed during the emergency period to members of the public, except for funerals or burials.
- During the emergency period no-one may leave the place where they are living without a reasonable excuse;
- The regulations list various needs which will amount to a reasonable excuse but do not rule out the possibility of something else amounting to a reasonable excuse;
- The list includes the need to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies, for those in the same household or the household of a vulnerable person, to obtain money, to take exercise, to seek medical assistance, to provide care or assistance including relevant personal care to a vulnerable person, to provide emergency assistance, to donate blood, to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, to attend some but not all funerals, to fulfil a legal obligation such as to attend court, to access critical public services such as childcare, educational services, social services, services for victims such as victims of crime, to fulfil arrangements for access to and contact between parents and children, to move house, where reasonably necessary to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm;
- During the emergency period no one may participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 people except where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household, where the gathering is essential for work purposes, to attend a funeral, where reasonably necessary to facilitate a house move, provide care assistance to a vulnerable person (including relevant personal care), to provide emergency assistance or to participate in legal proceedings or fulfil a legal obligation.
- Action can be taken to enforce the restrictions and requirements of the regulations by a police officer, a police community support officer, by a person designated for the purpose by the government and in the case of restrictions and requirements relating to business by a person designated for the purpose by a local authority.
- If an enforcement-official reasonably believes someone to be contravening a business restriction and that it is necessary and proportionate to do so, the official has power to issue a “prohibition notice” for the purpose of preventing the person from continuing to contravene the requirement;
- A police officer, police community support officer or government designated officer “may take such action as is necessary” to enforce any restriction on carrying out business or on public gatherings;
- Where a police officer, police community support officer or government designated officer considers that a person is outside the place where they are living in contravention of the requirement to remain at the place where they are living in the absence of a reasonable excuse, they may direct the person to return to the place where they are living or remove the person to the place where they are living and use reasonable force to do so;
- Where the person is a child, the person responsible for the child may be directed to return the child to the place where they are living and ensure the child complies;
- Where a police officer, police community support officer or government designated officer considers that three or more people are gathered together in contravention of the regulations, they may direct the gathering to disperse, direct any person in the gathering to return to the place where they are living and remove any person in the gathering to the place where they are living and may use reasonable force if necessary to do so.
- It is a criminal offence under the regulations for an individual to fail to comply with a requirement, direction or restriction without reasonable excuse or to obstruct an enforcement-official;
- It is a criminal offence for a company, firm, partnership etc or a company director or similar officer to consent to or connive (e.g. turn a blind eye) in the commission of an offence under the regulations by an individual, for example requiring an employee to attend his usual place of work when he could do his job from home;
- A person committing an offence under the regulations may be prosecuted and on conviction punished by a fine, the amount of which is unlimited;
- However resisting or obstructing a police officer in the execution of his/her duty may be an offence under pre-existing legislation which can be punished by imprisonment;
- An enforcement-official, appropriately authorised, may issue a fixed penalty notice to a person whom the authorised person reasonably believes to have committed an offence under the regulations and to be over 18, but is not required to do so and could, if he saw fit, refer the case for prosecution;
- If a person has been issued with a fixed penalty, a prosecution for the offence cannot be commenced until 28 days, following the date of the notice, have lapsed and, if the person pays the fixed penalty before the end of that period, then the person cannot be convicted of the offence;
- The amount of a fixed penalty will initially be £60, but, if it is paid within 14 days of the date of the notice, £30 will suffice. If however the person concerned has previously received a fixed penalty, the second fixed penalty will be £120 and the third £240 and so on, doubling up to a maximum of £960 for the fifth offence and any subsequent offence.
This note is based on the law in force as at 31 March 2020. The law on these matters is liable to rapid change to reflect changes in the public health crisis.