Friday, 9 October 2020

Coronavirus restrictions ~ possibility of a new restrictions regime as cases rise

Coronavirus is "getting out of control" in the north of England, a minister has said, as she defended government plans to bring in new restrictions.

Gillian Keegan, minister for skills and apprenticeships, said the country was in an "unbelievably serious situation".

That report was published by the BBC on 9 October 2020. The background to the report is government data showing a significant increase in infections - 17540 new cases on 8 October - and rising numbers requiring hospital treatment.

The BBC further reports that a 3-tier system

of coronavirus restrictions is likely to be introduced but, at the time of writing. legislation about that is awaited. It also appears that local authorities will be more involved in deciding the measures to be applied - BBC News 10 October 2020 and The Guardian 9 October - Keir Starmer attacks 'Whitehall knows best' Covid attitude.

As reported by ITV News 7 October, - "Local lockdown restrictions are “not working”, confusing and even “counter-productive”, leaders of northern cities have warned as the rate of coronavirus cases almost doubled in a week. 

The existing coronavirus restrictions are complex and very few people people, including lawyers, could clearly state what the restrictions are in a particular locality without reference to the numerous statutory instruments by which the various restrictions have been imposed.

Developments are awaited ...

Case study: James

The complexity of the law can be shown by a typical family situation. The following is intended to illustrate that complexity and is not intended to be legal advice.

James (age 75) lives with his wife Kate (also 75) in the southern part of Greater Manchester. Their home locality is in a "protected area" subject to restrictions set out in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North of England) Regulations 2020 - SI 2020/828.

James and Kate have a son and daughter living nearby and, before coronavirus restrictions, there were visits several times weekly between the various households.  James wishes to know what is now permitted.

This takes us to Regulation 5 of the North of England Regulations which states -

"During the emergency period, unless paragraph (2) applies -

(a) no person may participate in a gathering in the protected area which consists of two or more persons and takes place in a private dwelling, including a houseboat;

(b) no person living in the protected area may participate in a gathering which consists of two or more persons and takes place in a private dwelling, including a houseboat, outside the protected area."

Hence, unless there is an exception set out in Regulation 5(2), James and Kate may not vist their children's homes. 

One exception is where "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". The term "linked households" is defined in Regulation 6 but the definition does not appear to permit any ability for James and Katie to visit their children's homes.

Anothere exception relates to childcare including "informal childcare provided by a member of a household to a member of their linked childcare household"

The term "linked childcare household" is defined by further Regulations - The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Protected Areas and Linked Childcare Households) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 - SI 2020/1019.

Thus, it appears that James and Kate could become a linked childcare household with ONE of their children in order to provide informal childcare to a child under age 13.

This case study demonstrates not only the complexity of this web of Regulation but also the severe restrictions imposed by these Regulations on normal family life. The Regulations have been imposed by Ministers with almost no debate in Parliament. 

Given the normal desire of people to see their children and grandchildren, it would hardly be surprising to find quite widespread disregard of the Regulations. James and Kate wish to be responsible, play their part in preventing spread of the virus, and obey the law. They do not wish to fall foul of the offences imposed by Regulation 9 and the fixed penalties possible under Regulation 10.

9 October 2020

The Guardian 8 October - Planned new Covid rules for North of England are not enough,say scientists

The Guardian 6 October - Scientists call for herd immunity Covid strategy for the young

Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) - Coronavirus 

Manchester Evening News - Manchester students 'in intensive care' with coronavirus - this is one Manchester medic's warning to young people

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