Coronavirus Act 2020

Health Secretary Confirms Coronavirus Act Will Expire in March and Tells MPs He Does Not “Envisage” Ever Bringing it Back

Emergency powers brought in to tackle Covid will be consigned to history, Health Secretary Sajid Javid assured MPs today, saying he does not “envisage” ever having to bring back provisions in the Coronavirus Act because Britain has made so much progress in the pandemic. MailOnline has more.

While most of the lockdown powers were ushered in under the Public Health Act, the Coronavirus Act gave Government further abilities to control the spread of the virus.

Mr Javid admitted some of them were “quite draconian”, including the power to detain people with mental health issues which were never used but expired “very early on” in the pandemic. 

Others included the power to prohibit large-scale events, close schools and arrest infected people not following isolation rules.

Mr Javid was defending the Act  from accusations that elected MPs were unable to scrutinise controversial provisions before their introduction.

The vast majority of the Act’s remaining provisions are now due to expire on March 24th as part of a sunset clause brought in when ministers rushed them through Parliament at the start of the pandemic in 2020. 

When asked by MPs if a new Covid variant could prompt the return of the Act’s provisions, Mr Javid said he could not “envisage” ever having to do so because Britain has broad immunity against the virus and surveillance programmes to monitor its spread.

“Thankfully we have built huge and very significant defences over the past two years, the vaccinations… the treatments we have today, the testing capabilities we have today including the ability to genomic sequence,” he said.

“It’s a completely different picture that we have today than before.”

It’s certainly welcome to hear the emergency legislation will expire, and while ministers not ‘envisaging’ bringing it back is a meaningless assurance, it is nonetheless the thing we want to hear and is better than saying they are leaving it open. Will the Government now follow Denmark’s lead and reclassify Covid as no longer a socially critical disease?

The expiry of the Coronavirus Act still leaves the problem that the Public Health Act – under the generous interpretation of ministers and with the indulgence of supine judges – turned out to be far more illiberal than anyone guessed. It needs a thorough reform, at the very least to ensure that no restrictions can be imposed on the healthy without prior Parliamentary approval, or better still, to follow the example of Sweden’s constitution and rule it out entirely.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson Announces End of All Coronavirus Restrictions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that all remaining Covid restrictions in England, including the legal requirement to isolate, will be scrapped this month, saying he expects to end the remaining COVID-19 restrictions a “full month early”, on February 24th. The Telegraph has more.

Speaking in the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, [the Prime Minister] said: “It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.

“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions – including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive – a full month early.”

He intends to confirm the end of Covid isolation rules on February 21st.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said: “We are the freest country in Europe thanks to the strong defences we have built. We’re learning to live with Covid.”

It’s unclear how Mr. Javid can claim the U.K. is the freest country in Europe when Denmark lifted all restrictions last week.

Nonetheless, it’s good news that the Government is moving to lift the remaining pandemic restrictions and laws, which we hope will be comprehensive. For the pandemic fully to come to an end, however, the Government must also remove all pandemic-related guidance, so that the private tyrannies of organisations, employers, businesses and insurance companies are also steered towards an end. The pointless travel restrictions, including those discriminating against the unvaccinated, must also be lifted.

Sign These Five Petitions

Below is a list of five petitions, which are available to sign at petition.parliament.uk, that relate to repealing Government lockdown measures and vaccine mandates, as well as repeal the state’s political power to enact these restrictions. A link is provided next to the petition’s title that will take you directly to the appropriate page and URL link. If a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it must be considered for a debate in Parliament – so get signing!

Prohibit employers from requiring staff to be vaccinated against Covid (here)

Make it illegal for any employer to mandate vaccination for its employees. This should apply to all public sector (including the NHS, armed forces, care workers), third sector and all private sector.

Do not make vaccination against Covid mandatory (here)

Do not under any circumstances make vaccination against Covid a requirement for the public. To coerce in the form of fines or otherwise, as is being proposed in Austria, would be a grotesque violation of bodily autonomy.

Repeal all ‘Plan B’ Covid measures (here)

The Government must immediately repeal existing ‘Plan B’ measures, and not introduce any additional measures. This means repeal all mask mandates, not making proof of vaccination (or negative test result) a requirement for any venues, and not requiring people to work from home.

Do not require a Covid passport for access to any services, jobs or events (here)

Covid Passports are divisive, discriminatory and wrong. The Government should not implement them for any domestic purpose. It is divisive and discriminatory to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs which these passports could be used to do.

Referendum in the United Kingdom to abolish the Coronavirus Act (here)

The Government as a matter of urgency, to bring to Parliament for approval, legislation to have a referendum on the above subject within a maximum of six months.

If Another Lockdown is Imposed, or Vaccine Passports are Introduced, the Government Will Use the Almost Unlimited Powers Granted to it by the Public Health Act

We’re publishing a guest post today by Daily Sceptic regular Dr. David McGrogan, as Associate Professor in Northumbria Law School, about the Government’s reliance on the Public Health Act 1984 to railroad through all the Covid restrictions of the past 18 months and which will almost certainly be invoked to justify vaccine passports if and when they’re introduced. He applauds the Covid Recovery Group’s efforts to reform the PHA, but thinks they’re unlikely to succeed because our supine MPs quite like the current arrangement for self-interested reasons.

In a recent piece, Toby accurately laid out the basic legal position with regard to almost all of the various Covid-related restrictions brought in since March 2020. That is, although there is such a thing as the Coronavirus Act 2020, and although some of its original contents permitted the Government to do things that were quite draconian, it has not been the source of any of the restrictions that have been imposed. These have more or less all come through secondary or delegated legislation under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, making the Coronavirus Act 2020 a bit of a red herring. I thought it would be useful for readers of the Daily Sceptic to understand what this is all about, why it is, frankly, an outrage, and why the Covid Recovery Group of MPs are focused on repeal of the 1984 Act rather than the 2020 one.

It is important to provide a bit of background on this for readers without a background in law or politics. In U.K. constitutional arrangements, only Parliament can create law, which it does through primary legislation: an Act of Parliament. Only Parliament can create law, because only it comprises (in the form of the House of Commons) the elected representatives of the people, who are sovereign. In practical terms, of course, most Acts originate as bills put forward by the government, but governments cannot simply make laws by decree – they must pass through the legislature.

However, it has long been thought that getting Parliament to pass Acts for every piddling thing a government might wish to do would be time-consuming and get in the way of efficiency and expediency, and hence there has evolved a system of delegated legislation. Delegated legislation is, basically, law that is created by a government minister or other public body through powers granted them by an Act of Parliament. Parliament passes an Act (primary legislation) which specifically grants the power to a minister to make certain orders or regulations, and the minister thereby creates legislation lawfully because Parliament has said he can. Usually this is done for fairly trivial and/or technical matters that it is not worth spending parliamentary time on.

How Outraged Should We Be By Yesterday’s Renewal of the Coronavirus Act Without a Parliamentary Vote?

There was plenty of outrage on Twitter yesterday from lockdown sceptics about the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020 without the House of Commons being given an opportunity to vote on it. For instance, Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted: “What kind of democracy do we live in when a six month extension to emergency powers to control every aspect of our lives can just be nodded through without any vote?”

But I’m a little more sanguine about this than others and have written a comment piece for Mail+ explaining why. Here is an extract:

Yes, the Act, as originally passed in March 2020, is an illiberal measure that grants the Government all sorts of sweeping powers. For instance, the ability to close businesses and schools, and restrict social gatherings.

But there are two reasons why its renewal should not set off alarm bells.

First, all the most draconian powers granted to the Government under the Act have been removed. The remaining clauses give ministers powers they would need to use in the event of another lockdown but which, by themselves, don’t enable them to impose one, such as allowing them to financially support businesses affected by COVID-19 and to stop landlords evicting tenants for unpaid rents.

However, the removal of these sweeping powers should not be a cause of comfort – which brings me to the second reason.

The last three times the Government imposed a lockdown, it didn’t need to rely on any of the authoritarian clauses in the Act. That’s because it has all the powers it needs under the Public Health Act 1984 and, unlike the Coronavirus Act, that piece of legislation doesn’t have to be renewed every six months.

That’s why Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe and Deputy Leader of the Covid Recovery Group, abstained in yesterday’s vote but didn’t call for a division of the House. He rightly understood that the renewal of the Act was small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

I go on to say that for opponents of further lockdowns the focus should be on reforming the Public Health Act, not repealing the Coronavirus Act.

If we’re going to make it harder for the Government to lock us down again without carrying out a cost-benefit analysis – which it didn’t bother with on the previous three occasions – the critical thing is to reform the Public Health Act. That is what the Covid Recovery Group is campaigning for.

Of course, reforming the act wouldn’t prevent the Government from imprisoning us in our homes again. But it would mean that in order to do so, in the absence of any kind of risk assessment, it might have to pass another act of Parliament. That would at least give MPs and peers the opportunity to scrutinise and debate the merits of another lockdown.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: For those unconvinced by this argument, you can sign a petition urging the Government to repeal the Coronavirus Act here.