Enforcement of COVID-19 Closure Regulations
Everyone has been instructed to comply with the rules issued by the government in relation to coronavirus, in order to protect both themselves and others.
The guidance and legislation now being published is becoming a deluge and is changing daily as the virus spreads. Here we focus on enforcement.
As of 2pm on the 21 March 2020, closures on an original list from 20 March were enforceable by law in England and Wales due to the threat to public health. This was further updated on 23rd March.
A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence. As agreed with the devolved administrations, these measures were extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland by Ministerial Direction once the Coronavirus Bill comes into force.
The guidance relating to business and premises closures has been updated today (25 March). This has set out a more detailed list of closures and exceptions.
The updated guidance states that takeaway and food delivery services should remain open and operational, with such businesses being encouraged to use online and telephone delivery services as a preferred option. Equally restaurants, public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments can now serve takeaway meals. Cafés , canteens, food delivery and takeaway services can remain operational (as above) together with Cafés and canteens at hospitals, care homes or schools; prison and military canteens; and services providing food or drink to the homeless.
Where there are no practical alternatives, other workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks. However, where possible, staff are to be encouraged to bring their own food, and distributors should move to takeaway. Advice is given to take measures to minimise the number of people in the canteen at any one given time, for example by using a rota.
Car rental services and car parks nearby are permitted to remain open to facilitate such essential activity e.g. where they are supporting hospitals, supermarkets or takeaways.
A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes the regulations (as now amended above) commits an offence. Equally a person who obstructs, without reasonable excuse, any person carrying out a function under these Regulations commits an offence. An offence is punishable on summary conviction by a fine.
If an offence committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of an officer of the body or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of such an officer, the officer (as well as the body corporate) is guilty of the offence and liable to be prosecuted and proceeded against and punished accordingly. An “officer”, in relation to a body corporate, means a director, manager, secretary or other similar officers of the body corporate.
The present designated officers would appear, according to the guidance, to be Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers who will monitor compliance with the regulations, with police support provided if necessary. The Police will have additional powers to enforce entry to premises and ensure the enforcement of closure with arrest for ancillary offences. The guidance suggests “Businesses and premises that breach them (regulations) will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines.” Although this new legislation does not provide for such notices, the act was introduced under the emergency procedures provision given by the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 which does provide broader powers to the authorities.
We will continue to update you about developments as they arise.
Alternatively, if you or your business require advice or need assistance for any road transport matters, please get in touch with our specialist Road Transport team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0778.
This information is correct at 3.00pm on 25 March 2020.
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