Covid Control Plan: Legal Powers

Covid Control Plan: Legal Powers

Where the incident or outbreak requires follow up locally an Incident Management Team will be identified to provide support. This will adopt a '5E’s’ approach as follows:

  • Engage – make contact with the setting, agree preferred communication channel and contact details, and agree frequency of contact.
  • Explain – provide advice and guidance to help interpret prevention and/or control measures and ensure advice stays up to date with changing national guidance.
  • Encourage – review progress in implementing prevention and/or control measures, provide support for infection control activities and help the setting to problem solve where there are barriers to implementation. This may involve review of the safety measures put in place to make the setting ‘COVID secure’.
  • Escalate – seek further advice from the North East Health Protection Team where the incident or outbreak is not resolving in response to control measures, seek support from the Director of Public Health where closures are contemplated or where the incident or outbreak extends beyond the setting and seek support from the Local Outbreak Control Board where the incident or outbreak has the potential to impact upon the wider community or economy and/or where there is likely to be significant political or media interest.
  • Enforce – consider and use enforcement powers where the setting is unable or unwilling to implement the prevention and/or control measures.

The four main pieces of legislation that can be used to support COVID-19 prevention and response activity are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • The Public Health (Control of Diseases Act) 1984
  • Coronavirus Act 2020
  • Local authorities’ Powers of Entry are contained within Section 61 of the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984. Section 62 sets out supplementary provisions to entry.

To protect against the public health risks arising from COVID-19 the present Secretary of State for Health and Social Care used section 45R of Part 2A of the 1984 Act (which allows the Secretary of State to issue regulations controlling a disease without a draft being laid before parliament subject to renewal by parliament after 28 days) to implement the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 in England. The 2020 regulations create additional powers to control people who may have coronavirus now the Secretary of State has declared that its transmission is a serious and imminent threat to public health. The powers apply where either:

  • The Secretary of State or a public health consultant believes that a person may be infected with coronavirus and there is a risk that they might infect others; or
  • The person has arrived in England on a ship, aircraft or train and has left an infected area in the previous 14 days.

The 2020 Regulations allow the police to intervene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include a power for a constable to return someone to detention or isolation by using reasonable force and to remove someone to a hospital or enter any premises in order to do so on the basis of reasonable suspicion that the person may be infected with coronavirus (regulation 13).

Although the 2020 regulations have restrictive measures for screening, isolation and contact, in keeping with public health law generally, there is no provision for compulsory treatment of a person. People can appeal against restrictions to a magistrate but failure to cooperate is punishable by fine.

In addition to the health protection powers, we can issue health and safety improvement notices on non-compliant businesses and if the matter is serious enough, we can prohibit activity. Similarly, under food safety legislation we can issue improvement notices or take action to close a premise.

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