The Coronavirus Bill 2019-21 was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on 19 March 2020. MPs will next consider the Bill (that currently extends to 329 pages in total) on Monday 23 March 2020 before it progresses to the House of Lords. Given the rapidly increasing depth of the coronavirus crisis, it is imagined that everything will be done to ensure that the Bill is enacted into law as quickly as possible.
The Bill is designed to enable action to increase the available health and social care workforce, ease the burden on frontline NHS staff, slow the spread of the coronavirus, manage the deceased with respect and support people throughout the crisis. It sets out proposed powers for the police to detain people suspected of having coronavirus and send them for testing. Those who fail to comply could be fined up to £1,000.
Those in the leisure, hospitality and gambling sectors will have particular interest in paragraphs 5 & 6 of Schedule 21 to the Bill (that you can download below), setting out powers to the Secretary of State:
- “to prohibit or otherwise restrict events or gatherings in England” (which would include, for example, music and cultural festivals and major sporting events) and
- “to close premises in England or impose restrictions on persons entering or remaining inside them” (which would include, for example, pubs, bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, SEV premises, casinos, bingo clubs, betting shops, AGCs, amusement arcades and other hospitality and leisure businesses).
Information on the progress of the Bill can be tracked on the www.parliament.uk website here.
UPDATE: As reported by us here, the Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020. Schedule 21 of the draft Bill (mentioned above) has become Schedule 22 to the Act.