Guidance on local authority powers to enforce COVID-secure regulations

On 14 April 2021 the Government updated its “COVID-19 enforcement powers for local authorities” Guidance, reflecting changes made by The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 that came into force on 29 March 2021.

It sets out enforcement powers for local authorities to enforce COVID-secure regulations, including against venues in the hospitality, gambling and leisure sectors, by way of the following:

  • Coronavirus Improvement Notice (CIN)
    • A CIN can be issued by a local authority when a business is failing to fulfil a provision set out in the relevant coronavirus regulations relating to COVID-Secure measures.
  • Coronavirus Restriction Notice (CRN)
    • A CRN will be issued by a local authority when there has been a breach of the provisions of the relevant coronavirus regulations, and a recipient has failed to comply with the terms of a CIN, where this non-compliance creates a risk of exposure to coronavirus.
  • Coronavirus Immediate Restriction Notice (CIRN)
    • A CIRN can be issued by enforcement officers where rapid action is needed to close a premises or restrict an activity to stop the spread of the virus, without first issuing a CIRN to stop the spread of the virus.

The guidance explains the position in relation to:

  • reviews – by local authority officers to determine whether action taken by the recipient as complied with a notice, which will occur at the end of each notice or where an early review is requested for a CIN, CRN or CIRN,
  • appeals (within 28 days) and, where an appeal is successful, the power of the magistrates’ court to award compensation, and
  • investigative powers of local authority officers.

It also summarises the relevant obligations on businesses, stating as follows:

These notices enforce rules to:

  • take reasonable steps not to accept bookings, admit groups or allow persons to join groups or interact, in a way that offends the gatherings rules
  • keep appropriate distance between tables in hospitality premises
  • display a notice or otherwise ensure persons entering the relevant area are given the relevant information about the rules on face coverings, that information being that they need to wear one unless an exemption applies
  • prohibit a person responsible for a business from preventing or seeking to prevent any person at their premises from wearing a face covering where they must do so
  • a requirement to close premises or business as set out in the Steps Regulations at step 1step 2 and at step 3 and in the business and venue closure guidance
  • a requirement to close any indoor premises, or indoor part of the premises, in which food or drink are provided for consumption on a restricted businesses and to cease providing food or drink indoors, as set out in the Steps Regulations, at step 1 and step 2
  • a requirement for a business which serves alcohol for consumption on the premises to ensure that food or drink is ordered by, and served to, a customer who is seated on the premises and that the business takes all reasonable steps to ensure the customer stays seated, as set out in the Steps Regulations at step 2 and step 3
  • display an NHS QR code in a relevant premises for the collection of contact details
  • request certain details from all members of a group, when they seek to enter a relevant premises and have not scanned the NHS QR code
  • request the details of an individual and the one member of staff, volunteer or person providing the service, where an individual will only come into contact with that person
  • require hospitality businesses or premises to refuse entry to individuals or groups who do not provide the required details
  • require businesses or premises to retain this information securely for 21 days and disclose those details when requested to do so by a public health officer
  • require an employer not to knowingly allow a worker who must self-isolate to attend work other than at the designated place of isolation, during the period of isolation

Further details, including exemptions to these rules, can be found by visiting separate guidance on Steps Regulationsbusiness restrictions and safer working.