Coronavirus Act 2020 granted Royal Assent

The Coronavirus Act 2020 has been granted Royal Assent today (25 March 2020), meaning that it is now in force. It was rushed through Parliament in just five working days since the first reading of what was then the Coronavirus Bill on 19 March 2020.

From the perspective of the hospitality, leisure and gambling sectors, one of the most immediately relevant provisions is contained in Schedule 22 to the Act, namely the power given to the Secretary of State in England (and to devolved government ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) to issue directions relating to events, gatherings and premises.

Although as at today, all hospitality, leisure and gambling premises are subject to enforced closure pursuant to emergency regulations, the provisions within paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 22 (set out below) will apply with primary legislative force not only to all such premises but also to, for example, music and cultural festivals and sporting events.

Power to prohibit or otherwise restrict events or gatherings in England

5 (1) The Secretary of State may, for the purpose of:

(a) preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of coronavirus, or

(b) facilitating the most appropriate deployment of medical or emergency personnel and resources,

issue a direction prohibiting, or imposing requirements or restrictions in relation to, the holding of an event or gathering in England.

(2) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may be issued in relation to:

(a) a specified event or gathering, or

(b) events or gatherings of a specified description.

(3) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may only have the effect of imposing prohibitions, requirements or restrictions on:

(a) the owner or occupier of premises for an event or gathering to which the direction relates;

(b) the organiser of such an event or gathering;

(c) any other person involved in holding such an event or gathering.

(4) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may only be issued during a public health response period.

(5) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may, among other things, impose requirements about informing persons who may be planning to attend an event or gathering of its prohibition or any requirements or restrictions imposed in relation to the holding of it.

(6) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2), events or gatherings may be described:

(a) by reference to a number of people attending the event or gathering,

(b) by reference to a requirement for medical or emergency services to attend the event or gathering, or

(c) in any other way.

(7) The reference in sub-paragraph (3)(c) to a person involved in the holding of an event or gathering does not include a person whose only involvement in the event or gathering is, or would be, by attendance at the event or gathering.

Power to close premises in England or impose restrictions on persons entering or remaining in them

6 (1) The Secretary of State may, for the purpose of:

(a) preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of coronavirus, or

(b) facilitating the most appropriate deployment of medical or emergency personnel and resources,

issue a direction imposing prohibitions, requirements or restrictions in relation to the entry into, departure from, or location of persons in, premises in England.

(2) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may be issued in relation to:

(a) specified premises, or

(b) premises of a specified description.

(3) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may only have the effect of imposing prohibitions, requirements or restrictions on:

(a) the owner or occupier of premises to which the direction relates;

(b) any other person involved in managing entry into, or departure from, such premises or the location of persons in them.

(4) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may only be issued during a public health response period.

(5) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may, among other things, impose requirements for the purpose of:

(a) closing the premises;

(b) restricting entry into the premises;

(c) securing restrictions in relation to the location of persons in the premises.

(6) A direction under sub-paragraph (1) may impose prohibitions, requirements or restrictions by reference to (among other things):

(a) the number of persons in the premises;

(b) the size of the premises;

(c) the purpose for which a person is in the premises;

(d) the facilities in the premises;

(e) a period of time.

A complete version of the Coronavirus Act 2020 can be accessed here.