I should point out that most of the regulations which place restrictions on our daily lives are made under the under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, not the Coronavirus Act 2020.
The Coronavirus Act has been critical to the country’s response to the pandemic. It contains provisions allowing the emergency registration of nurses and to authorise the furlough scheme, for example. If all temporary provisions of the Act were removed, this would end measures protecting commercial tenants and renters from eviction, virtual court hearings, statutory sick pay for the full self-isolation.
However, the Act does contain exceptional powers which should only be active as long as is strictly necessary. Therefore I was pleased that 12 provisions in the Act have been allowed to expire:
- section 15, which allowed local authorities to ease some responsibilities around social care;
- section 24, which allowed biometric data held for national security purposes to be retained for an extra six months;
- five provisions that required information for businesses and people involved in the food supply chain;
- section 71, which allowed a single Treasury Minister to sign on behalf of all Treasury Commissioners
- There are two provisions that created a new form of emergency volunteering leave, which were not needed.
- Section 79 extended arrangements for business improvement districts
- Section 84 allowed for the postponement of General Synod elections.
As well as the Coronavirus Act, the House of Commons considered the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021. These can be read here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/364/made and I should point out that their provisions can be deleted, lapsed or changed to earlier dates for relaxation at any stage through an amending regulation.
These regulations were approved, which means that the “stay at home” rule has ended and six people or two households are able to meet outdoors, and outdoor sports can resume. The regulations also commit the remaining steps of the Government road map into law.
I know many are concerned about international travel, both for holidays and business purposes. The Government have commissioned a review regarding the resumption of international travel, which will report by 5th April. I hope this report will provide further clarity and allow a form of overseas travel being possible from some point in May.
Given the factors above, I was content to vote on Thursday for the expiration of some elements of the Coronavirus Act, the continuation of some elements of the Act, and for the most significant reduction in lockdown measures since last summer.