The Corona virus Act, 2020
How the UK is setting an example with this act.
The coronavirus or COVID virus has caused a worldwide ripple in the activities of various nations. Not only is this a deadly virus to the body but its effects are felt in other sectors of the government as well. With its spread it has forced nations into an unprecedented ‘lockdown’. In other words, it has forced governments of the word to shut its streets and work, advising their citizens to stay at home until further notice.
Now, it has been a while and since a vaccine for the virus still has not been discovered it will take longer for the actual restart of many works in the world. But, how long can some businesses wait and if there is more time taken it might result in irreparable damage to the economies and general well being of the country and its citizens.
Which is why some countries are slowly relaxing their restrictions and are letting some businesses and activities run and function. Now, as a first the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has enacted a bill in parliament which is directly aimed at improving the situation caused by COVID and bringing the country slowly back on its feet.
Factors leading up up the act
The virus had affected countries worldwide. The first countries to have faced the full brunt of the virus first were the western Europeans. The UK had also been facing many infected and deaths due to Covid.
But, the government noticed that as safety measures were being practiced thoroughly and that the recovery rate was increasing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government decided to pass the Coronavirus bill 2020 which specifically deals with the measures and phases regarding which people and businesses can get back on track.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that grants the government emergency powers to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act allows the government the discretionary power to limit or suspend public gatherings, to detain individuals suspected to be infected by COVID-19, and to intervene or relax regulations in a range of sectors to limit transmission of the disease, ease the burden on public health services, and assist healthcare workers and the economically affected. Areas covered by the Act include the National Health Service, social care, schools, police, Border Force, local councils, funerals and courts. The Act was introduced to Parliament on 19 March 2020, and passed the House of Commons without a vote on 23 March, and the House of Lords on 25 March. The Act subsequently received royal assent on 25 March 2020.
Politicians from parties including the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats demanded closer parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation while it was debated in Parliament. Advocacy groups such as Liberty and Disability Rights UK have likewise called for closer examination of the Act and raised concerns over its effects on human rights during and after the pandemic.
The Act gives the legal premise to the current ‘lockdown’ of residents and organizations,but it does a great deal more besides. Its broad degree ranges from the food flexibly chain to the administration of the expired, to specialized corrections expected to slacken up necessities and commitments around issues, for example, authorisations, confirming, self-teaching. There are different measures to encourage boosting staff numbers for human services and social administrations; arrangements comparable to laborers’ privileges and qualifications; forces to implement social removing, forces to encourage distant activity of the court framework, arrangements according to the crisis budgetary help measures, arrangements corresponding to neighborhood specialists and corresponding to business and private tenures. Most of the detail is contained in the broad calendars to the Act.
The entirety of the arrangements in the Act are time constrained for a long time and not all the arrangements came into power promptly (albeit a first legal instrument bringing a portion of the deferred arrangements into power was given before long). Measures can likewise be suspended and reactivated later. It will likewise be conceivable to expand or end the arrangements of the Act, contingent upon the logical proof.
The provisions of the Coronavirus Act, which are time-limited for two years, enable the government to restrict or prohibit public gatherings, control or suspend public transport, order businesses such as shops and restaurants to close, temporarily detain people suspected of COVID-19 infection, suspend the operation of ports and airports, temporarily close educational institutions and childcare premises, enroll medical students and retired healthcare workers in the health services, relax regulations to ease the burden on healthcare services, and assume control of death management in particular local areas. The government has stated that these powers may be “switched on and off” according to the medical advice it receives.
The Act also provides for measures to combat the economic effects of the pandemic. It includes the power to halt the eviction of tenants, protect emergency volunteers from becoming unemployed, and provide special insurance cover for healthcare staff taking on additional responsibilities. The government will reimburse the cost of statutory sick pay for employees affected by COVID-19 to employers, and supermarkets will be required to report supply chain disruptions to the government.
The Act formally postpones the local elections originally scheduled for May 2020 and grants the UK and relevant devolved governments the power to postpone any other election, local referendum, or recall petition until 6 May 2021. Local councillors, elected mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners originally due for election in 2020 will serve three-year terms after their election in 2021, rather than the normal four years, in order to maintain the normal election cycle.
The major criticisms towards the act was from the opposition parties who all had basically the same argument i.e. the act seemed war-like and gave unwanted and extra powers to the government and Boris Johnson.
Many claimed by having the power of, at any given time being able to stop the working of the country is curbing civil liberties of people and is on similar lines to a dictatorship. Many also claimed that it could lead to false detainment of many as there can be flaws in the rule that any person seen in public having the symptoms of the virus can be detained by the government.
Why other nations should take notice of this act
Now, many countries around the world are opening up their restrictions slowly, but a concrete plan and law such as this could make the process smooth.
Countries such as India, Brazil, Japan who have a large populations and cases can put forward a bill in similar terms so as to provide a clear path and distinct plan of action. As this situation was unprecedented it is important that countries act quickly to it as well.
If the Corona virus is here to stay for a long time, countries must learn to adapt, improvise and ultimately, overcome.
Author: Tarun S,
IFIM law School, 2nd Year