On 21 August 2020, workers at Greencore Food factory in Northampton, and members of their households, were told to self-isolate for a 14-day period. The Government stated it would introduce regulations to enforce the restrictions. The regulations were laid before Parliament under the made affirmative procedure on 1 September 2020. They were made on 28 August 2020 and came into force on 29 August 2020. The regulations expire 28 days after they came into force. These regulations are called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Greencore) Regulations 2020.

The regulations have been made using powers available under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

The regulations are scheduled to be debated in the House of Lords on 25 September 2020. 

What do the regulations do?

The regulations require workers at Greencore Foods, and members of their household, to self-isolate if their main place of work for Greencore between 7 August and 21 August 2020 was at one of the Greencore units listed in the regulations.

The restrictions apply to: 

  • People who are directly employed by Greencore.
  •  Agency staff.
  • People who work full or part-time, including if they also work at other sites or for other companies.
  • Household members of the workers listed above. ‘Households’ are the people the workers live with and who share amenities such as the kitchen and/or bathrooms in their home.

These people were required to self-isolate until 5 September 2020. If a person was part way through a period of self-isolation before 29 August 2020, they did not have to continue to self-isolate until 5 September 2020. Instead, they only had to continue to self-isolate until they had completed a continuous period of 14 days of self-isolation.

Any person who had tested positive for Covid-19 at any time between 20 August 2020 and 28 August 2020 and had been in self-isolation since receiving the result, had to self-isolate for a continuous 10-day period.

The regulations require people to self-isolate at one of the following:

  • Home
  • The home of a family member or a friend.
  • In a hotel, hostel, or bed and breakfast. or other suitable place.

Who is exempt? 

The restrictions do not apply to Greencore workers if all of the following apply:

  • The worker took a Covid-19 test between 7 August 2020 and 11 August 2020.
  •  The test was from NHS Test and Trace or Randox Laboratories.
  •  The test was positive.
  • The worker self-isolated for a continuous 10-day period starting on the date the positive test result was received.
  • The worker had not been present at the locations specified in the regulations between the date they received their test result and 21 August 2020.

The restrictions also do not apply to Greencore workers if all of the following apply:

  • The worker took a Covid-19 test between 12 August 2020 and 19 August 2020.
  •  The test was from NHS Test and Trace or Randox Laboratories.
  • The test was positive.
  •  The worker self-isolated for a continuous period of 10 days starting on the date they received the positive test result.

A household member would not be required to continue to self-isolate if either they or the Greencore worker moved away at any point and did not return until the worker had finished their period of self-isolation. However, if a worker who was still self-isolating joined or was joined in a household, a further 14-day period of self-isolation would need to be completed by the worker and all the people they lived with.

The regulations allow for workers and household members to leave self-isolation for a number of specified reasons such as to seek medical attention or to avoid injury or harm.

Can fines be issued?

The regulations give the police the power to direct people to return or to remove them to the place that they are self-isolating. Police can issue a fixed penalty notice of £100 to adults. The penalty for obstructing the police carrying out its duties under the regulations is £1,000.

Why were the regulations introduced?

Between 9 August 2020 and 15 August 2020, Northampton saw an increase of 8 percent in the number of positive tests results for Covid-19. According to the Government, data from NHS Test and Trace showed that most of the transmissions appeared to have occurred within households and in community settings that could be traced back to staff working at Greencore factories in Northampton. Greencore arranged for mass testing of the workforce. It tested 1,140 workers of which 214 were positive. A further 79 cases were identified through NHS Test and Trace. The factory in Northampton closed voluntarily on 21 August 2020 and underwent a full deep clean. Most staff and their direct households were told to self-isolate for 14 days. On 21 August 2020, the Department for Health and Social Care announced that regulations would be introduced to legally enforce the 14-day period of self-isolation.

The Government said that the intention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Greencore) Regulations 2020 was to reduce the likelihood of further transmissions of Covid-19 to other workers and their families, and to reduce the risk of further spread into the community. The Government stated that these measures were taken to prevent wider lockdown restrictions in the area similar to those introduced in Leicester since July 2020. Information about local lockdowns across England can be found in the House of Lords Library In Focus article, ‘Local lockdowns: The legislative framework in England’.

On 4 September 2020, Greencore stated that staff who had completed their self-isolation periods had started to return to the Northampton facilities on a gradual basis. It said that staff who were self-isolating following the introduction of restrictions would be able to return and would be brought back in phases.

Image by ITV.