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Update on the Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations: Implications for Children

Upon the implementation of legislation pertaining to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Youth Justice Legal Centre provided guidance entitled ‘The Coronavirus Act and Health Protection Regulations: Implications for children which can be found at https://yjlc.uk/the-coronavirus-act-the-regulations-and-the-implications-for-children/. This addressed the Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘the Regulations’).

The government has since amended the Regulations with the following: the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1st June 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 came into force on 12th June and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 15th June.

Restrictions on movement

Some of the critical changes to the Act are to section 6 which have relaxed lawful movement considerably. Previously, section 6 stated that no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse and went on to give examples of what amounted to a reasonable excuse. However, the amendments now state that no person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living[i] or where their linked household is living[ii]. It again goes on to give examples of reasonable excuses which reflect some of those previously in section 6. Importantly, the examples of reasonable excuse in section 6 continue to be non-exhaustive. Those given in the amendments are as follows:

 

  • To attend the funeral of a member of their household, a close family member or a friend (only if no family member of household member of the deceased is attending)[iii]
  • For training or competition if an elite athlete or parent of the elite athlete[iv]
  • If it is necessary to stay elsewhere while moving house[v]
  • If it is reasonably necessary to stay elsewhere for work purposes or the provision of voluntary or charitable services[vi]
  • If it is reasonably necessary to stay elsewhere to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person[vii]
  • If it is reasonably necessary to stay elsewhere to provide emergency assistance[viii]
  • If it is reasonably necessary to stay elsewhere to avoid injury or illness or escape a risk of harm[ix]
  • If it is reasonably necessary to stay elsewhere to obtain medical assistance[x]
  • If it is reasonable necessary to enable the attending of a birth or a visit to a person reasonably believed to be dying or receiving treatment who is a member of the same household, a close family member or friend[xi]
  • If it is necessary to stay elsewhere to fulfil a legal obligation or participate in legal proceedings[xii]
  • If the individual is a child that does not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, and the overnight stay is necessary to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children[xiii]
  • If the individual is unable to return to the place where they live because it is not safe for them to live there or they may not lawfully travel there or is required by law to stay in another place or because the place where they are living is not available for them for any other reason[xiv]

Restrictions on gatherings

Once again there are significant changes to section 7 of the Act further relaxing the restrictions regarding gatherings. Specifically, it now states that gatherings that take place outdoors must not take place with more than six persons or if indoors of no more than two persons.[xv] The exception here is if all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household or members of two households which are linked households in relation to each other.[xvi]

A gathering is now defined in the amendments as being where “two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”.[xvii] This remains whether in private or public.[xviii] However, this does not apply if all persons are from the same household or if any of the reasonable excuse situations apply as outlined above.[xix]

A “linked household” is defined as one household comprising of just one adult or of one adult and one or more children which can choose to be linked with a second household as long as the second household is not linked to another household and all the adult members of the second household agree to the link.[xx]These two households are then “linked”. There is no limit on the number of adults or children which may be in the second household.[xxi]

Enforcement of restrictions

It remains that where a relevant person considers that a person is in contravention of regulation 6 by staying overnight at a place other than where they are living without reasonable excuse, the relevant person may direct that person to return home and can remove that person to their home but the explicit power in the statute to use  reasonable force has been removed.[xxii] However, the police can still use reasonable force if they suspect an individual is about to commit an offence or to effect a lawful arrest.

Public transport: requirement to wear face covering

New legislation has now made it an offence to use public transport without wearing a face covering unless you have a reasonable excuse.[xxiii] This includes boarding and being on board public transport and is regardless of whether it is with the purpose to travel.[xxiv] A “face covering” means a covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth.[xxv]  This is an offence for children aged 11 years old or older.[xxvi] The statute gives examples of what amounts to reasonable excuse but it is not exhaustive. It includes: individuals who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability or without severe distress, if it is reasonably necessary for an individual to eat or drink and they remove their face covering to eat or drink or to take medication.[xxvii]

An individual can be denied boarding public transport or directed to disembark the vehicle if not wearing a face covering. If the direction is not complied with then the individual can be removed and reasonable force can be used. A person who is in contravention of this restriction commits an offence and is punishable on summary conviction by fine. A person who obstructs, without reasonable excuse, any person carrying out a function under these Regulations also commits an offence.[xxviii] The Regulations give an authorised person the option to issue a fixed penalty notice to anyone over the age of 18 who has committed an offence under the Regulations.[xxix]

Written by Hannah Williams (Barrister) in collaboration with the Youth Justice Legal Centre.

[i] Amendment 6(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[ii] Amendment 5(a) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

[iii] Amendment 6(2)(a) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[iv] Amendment 6(2)(b) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[v] Amendment 6(2)(c) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[vi] Amendment 6(2)(d)(i) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[vii] Amendment 6(2)(d)(ii) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[viii] Amendment 6(2)(d)(iii) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[ix] Amendment 6(2)(d)(iv) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[x] Amendment 6(2)(d)(v) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xi] Amendment 5(b) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

[xii] Amendment 6(2)(e) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xiii] Amendment 6(2)(f) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xiv] Amendment 6(2)(g) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xv] Amendment 7(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xvi] Amendment 6(a) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

[xvii] Amendment 7(3)(a) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xviii] Amendment 7(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xix] Amendment 7(2) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xx] Amendment 7(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

[xxi] Amendment 7(2) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

[xxii] Amendment 8(a) and (b) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020

[xxiii] Regulation 3(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

[xxiv] Regulation 3(2) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

[xxv] Regulation 2(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

[xxvi] Regulation 3(3)(a) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

[xxvii] Regulation 4 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

[xxviii] Regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020

[xxix] Regulation 7 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020