Coronavirus Bill: emergency Covid-19 legislation

The bill proposes new laws that would provide the Government, and various public bodies, with powers to manage the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.

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The bill has a two-year sunset clause and the Government has described the powers as “temporary and proportionate”. The bill’s powers include: 

  • emergency registration of health professionals and social workers;
  • provision of indemnity insurance for health workers and compensation schemes for health service volunteers;
  • amendments to mental health legislation, to allow certain functions relating to the detention and treatment of patients to be satisfied by fewer doctors’ opinions or certifications;
  • closure of educational establishments, powers to force educational and childcare providers to remain open, and the relaxing of staff-child ratios in educational settings;
  • detention of those suspected of being infected with Covid-19, for the purposes of screening and assessment;
  • restrictions on public gatherings, the movement of transport, and the closure of ports and airports;
  • reforms to death management processes, including the registering of deaths and the transport and disposal of dead bodies; and
  • postponement of local and mayoral elections, which had been planned in May 2020.

The Labour Party has expressed general support for the bill. However, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, has stated that the continued enforcement of the bill’s powers should be subject to a vote in the House of Commons every six months.

On 24 March 2020, the second reading of the bill is scheduled to take place in the House of Lords. The remaining stages are due to be completed on 25 March 2020.

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