COVID-19 – relaxations in law from 13 May 2020
Following recent Government announcements, the following are the main changes that come into force from Wednesday 13 May 2020. (Please note that these apply to England only – other regulations apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
These are simply changes to the existing regulations. Their application may be found in any guidance issued. Their interpretation will be a matter for the Court. Much confusion that has arisen has often been caused by referring to ‘rules’ when this is in fact guidance and not necessarily what the regulations themselves state e.g. ‘you may exercise once-daily’ was guidance and has never been the law in England. Police forces have already sought further guidance following these amendments, contemplating more future changes that will inevitably follow.
Whereas before it was a ‘reasonable excuse’ to be outside the home this has been amended and extended so now exercise may be taken:
- with one or more members of their household
- with one member of another household (NEW).
A reasonable excuse now also covers the need for people to:
- visit a public open space for the purposes of open-air recreation to promote their physical or mental health or emotional wellbeing.
Again, this is permitted either alone, with one or more members of their household, or with one member of another household.
The ‘one member of another household’ issue is an area causing concern: in the context of exercise one can now, say, meet up with another family member such as one parent or one grandparent – but not two parents or grandparents at the same time.
The new regulations make no reference themselves to distance travelled to a public open space or time spent at that location. Time and distance have been covered off in earlier guidance – e.g. not driving further to a location to start exercise than one could walk to. But all will have to be the subject of any further guidance – clearly, it envisages access to locations other than merely the local park.
NB: the regulations expressly state that a ‘public open space’ includes: a) land laid out as a public garden or used for the purpose of recreation by members of the public; (b) land which is “open country” (National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and Countryside Act 1968 land which is “access land” Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000).
There is now a window of assistance in the area of house sales and purchases. Whilst a reasonable excuse was ‘to move house where reasonably necessary’ this has been significantly widened to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of residential property:
- visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes
- viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent
- preparing a residential property to move in
- visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property.
The need to to use a waste or recycling centre is now a reasonable excuse to be outside the home. Some centres are opening with ‘timed slots’ to regulate access.
Lifting of business restrictions
Garden centres and outdoor sports courts are added to the list of businesses not subject to restrictions. (NB: indoor sports courts remain closed)
The basic fixed penalty notice amount for non-compliance for new offences rises from £60 to £100 (£50 if payable within 14 days). The same ‘multiplier’ method applies as before. This means that fines double for each subsequent offence in stages of £200, £400, £800, £1,600 to a maximum of £3,200.
The amending law is The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 and applies only to England. There will be many future amendments. This takes effect from 13 May 2020.
We will continue to update you about developments as they arise.
Alternatively, if you or your business require advice or need assistance for any regulatory or road transport matters, please get in touch with our specialist Regulatory and Road Transport team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0778.
For all of our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice, please visit https://www.ashtonslegal.co.uk/coronavirus/
This information is correct at 9.30am on 13 May 2020.
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