Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Petition Repeal the Coronavirus Act

The powers given to the UK Government under the Coronavirus Act have gone on too long and has greatly affected many people’s lives and the economics of this country. The restrictions that have been put in place under these powers should be ended by repealing this Act in its entirety

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We want to see the Act completely repealed with no legal residue left. All powers given to the Government through this Act must be taken away and all laws, policies put in place under this Act should be removed.

No more coronavirus restrictions should be forced on people. People can then determine for themselves, without government interference, what they want to do.

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Government responded

This response was given on 21 September 2021

It is important that the right tools remain available to manage the ongoing risk from the pandemic whilst ensuring that any restrictions are in place no longer than is absolutely necessary.

Most of the legal restrictions put in place during the pandemic were done so under the Public Health Act (Control of Diseases) 1984. The majority of these restrictions were lifted when moving to Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap and were replaced by guidance to help people understand how they themselves can best manage their risks from Covid.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”) helped set the foundations of the Government’s approach to combating the pandemic. The Act has enabled action in five keys areas:

- increasing the available health and social care workforce
- easing and reacting to the burden on frontline staff
- supporting people
- containing and slowing the virus
- managing the deceased with respect and dignity.

Most of the provisions within the Act are facilitative and enabling, providing support throughout the pandemic to individuals and businesses, and enabling essential public services such as the NHS to function.

Since its inception, the Act has ensured that the NHS had the capacity to deal with the peak of the virus by allowing the temporary registration of, as of 30 June, over 14,000 temporary nurses and other healthcare professionals. It has also protected critical societal functions and ensured that they were still able to continue, such as providing courts with the ability to use video technology. To date, these powers have allowed over 18,000 hearings per week to take place using remote technology across 3,200 virtual court rooms. The Act has meant that we were able to ensure effective support packages such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) were in place for people and businesses. As at 14 June 2021, there have been 11.6 million unique jobs supported by the CJRS since its inception with £25.2 billion paid in SEISS grants in total (up to 6 June 2021). Across the four grants 2.9 million individuals have received a grant and 9.1 million total grants have been claimed. To repeal the Act in its entirety without regard to the current state of the pandemic would risk undermining these essential support mechanisms.

The Act has always sought to balance the need to be able to respond effectively to the pandemic with a commitment to maintain powers for the shortest possible time and expire provisions which are no longer proportionate. Part 2 of the Act enables the suspension of powers if the scientific advice is that they are not needed for the time being and can be revived again if that advice changes. Temporary powers in the Act can also be expired earlier than the automatic sunset date. To date, 13 non-devolved temporary provisions have been expired early. The first (section 10 relating to the Mental Health Act) was expired in December 2020 and, following the one-year review of the Act, a further 12 provisions were expired and a further three suspended earlier this year.

Part 2 of the Act also includes various arrangements to facilitate accountability and transparency over the use of powers set out in part 1 of the Act. This includes a six-monthly Parliamentary review of the Act (Section 98). The six-monthly review of the temporary powers in the Act is currently taking place. All the provisions that are not essential for managing the pandemic will be recommended for expiry. The review will include a debate and renewal vote on the temporary provisions in the House of Commons. Debates and renewal votes took place in September 2020 and March 2021. On both occasions, Parliament debated the Act in detail and voted to renew the temporary provisions. In addition, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care reports to Parliament every two months on the status of the non-devolved provisions in the Act.

The Government is mindful that local and national measures have affected people’s day-to-day activities, such as leaving their homes, going to work, operating a business and seeing friends and family. Complying with these measures has been vital to prevent the incidence and spread of COVID-19, protect the NHS and save lives.

Regulations made under the Public Health Act 1984 have been regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain necessary and proportionate. In doing so, the Government considers the economic impact of the regulations on businesses and individuals, as well as the personal impact on everyone affected. Where restrictions are no longer necessary or proportionate, they have been removed, as seen with the move to Step 4.

The Government is committed to its promise that measures will only remain in place for as long as absolutely necessary, while remaining mindful of the need to support recovery; be prepared for variants of concerns; and ensure the NHS can deal with winter pressures.

Department of Health and Social Care

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