Emer­gency pow­ers al­low fines and de­ten­tion

The Guardian - - News - Kate Proc­tor Peter Walker Ra­jeev Syal

The po­lice and pub­lic health and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers will be able to de­tain peo­ple sus­pected of hav­ing Covid-19 and ex­act £1,000 fines for re­fus­ing tests, un­der emer­gency pow­ers rolled out by the UK gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day.

The guid­ance in the coro­n­avirus bill al­lows health of­fi­cers to or­der any­one be­lieved to be in­fected to dis­close their travel his­tory, have screen­ing and tests within 14 days,and pro­vide bi­o­log­i­cal sam­ples. Those of­fi­cers will also have the power to force po­ten­tially in­fected peo­ple to iso­late them­selves. And peo­ple could be held prior to con­sul­ta­tion with pub­lic health of­fi­cers.

The mea­sures are en­force­able only amid “risk of se­ri­ous and im­mi­nent threat to pub­lic health”. This will in­clude any­one who ab­sconds while be­ing moved to be tested, pro­vides false in­for­ma­tion or obstructs the im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­stric­tions. The bill states: “The pol­icy aim … is to en­sure pro­por­tion­ate mea­sures can be en­forced if and when nec­es­sary.”

The bill re­quires the health sec­re­tary to pre­pare a re­port on it ev­ery two months, with a mo­tion put be­fore par­lia­ment af­ter ev­ery sixth re­port.

The gov­ern­ment also has stronger pow­ers to in­ter­vene if it sus­pects peo­ple are dis­rupt­ing food dis­tri­bu­tion. In­dus­try in­sid­ers said new clauses would give min­is­ters the power to de­mand in­for­ma­tion at short no­tice if they sus­pected black mar­ket ac­tiv­ity.

Funeral direc­tors will be able to reg­is­ter deaths and cause-of-death cer­tifi­cates to reg­is­trars elec­tron­i­cally and will also “re­move need for sec­ond con­fir­ma­tory med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate in or­der for cre­ma­tion to take place”.

Be­fore the emer­gency pow­ers were pro­posed by the gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day, a cross-party group of MPs and peers warned that its mea­sures must not breach hu­man rights pro­vi­sions.

The in­ter­ven­tion by par­lia­ment’s joint com­mit­tee on hu­man rights came af­ter Jeremy Cor­byn wrote to Boris John­son ask­ing that the pow­ers in the coro­n­avirus bill, which will last for two years, be re­viewed ev­ery six months.

The leg­is­la­tion is ex­pected to com­plete all stages of the Com­mons on Mon­day, then pass through the Lords next Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

MPs are lob­by­ing hard to try to en­sure safe­guards. The hu­man rights com­mit­tee has pub­lished a re­port on po­ten­tial civil lib­er­ties is­sues, and stressed that all mea­sures should com­ply with the UK’s obli­ga­tions un­der the UN and Euro­pean con­ven­tions on hu­man rights. Har­riet Har­man, the Labour MP who chairs the hu­man rights com­mit­tee, said: “It is vi­tally im­por­tant that checks and balances are in place to en­sure that hu­man rights are not dis­re­garded.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.