Coronavirus Law Resources
Because it dawned on me that I was continually resorting to Google searches, scrolls through WhatsApp chats and hunting the downloads dotted around my hard drive for the various Coronavirus Regulations and other resources, I have decided to be efficient and put links to the key ones here.
This is primarily for my own purposes but readers of this blog may find it useful.
All the links to regulations are to the legislation.gov.uk site which (if you are not familiar with it) has a handy slider on the "latest available" button showing how the regulations stood at given dates in time. As ever when using the that site be careful to check whether you are looking at the law as made ("original as made"), or the law as amended ("latest available"), and always check the home page for new SI's, as amending SIs (which are coming thick and fast) can take a day or so to appear as updates to the page of the SI they amend.
I will add to this over time, but the idea is to keep it fairly simple.
I've included a timeline of the effect of the major regulatory changes on the licensed sector. This has been "repurposed" from a skeleton argument - and is by its very nature a historical timeline, not a statement of the current law, which (because of its origins), focuses on London and has a particular interest in wedding venues.
The law is current as at 3 December 2020. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with comments and corrections.
The All Tiers Regulations
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 2 December 2020.
The Commons Library keeps an updated a map showing which is area is in what tier.
The Enforcement Powers Regulations
The All Tiers were accompanied by new local authority enforcement powers found in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Local Authority Enforcement Powers and Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.
Obligations of Undertakings, Contact Details, Face Coverings, No 3 Regulations
The Obligations of Undertakings Regulations (as amended).
The Contact Details Regulations (as amended).
The Face Coverings Regulations (as amended).
The No. 3 Regulations (as amended) - these include the important provisions about individual premises directions which can be made by local authorities. For an example of an authority making liberal use of these powers, see here.
The No. 2 Regulations: predecessor to the Three Tier Regulations, and now largely superseded, these still give a power for the Secretary of State to make a direction to restrict access to public places. They came into force on "Independence Day", 4 July 2020, about which I have written with my colleagues Gary Grant and Leo Charalambides.
Other current legal resources applying in England
The designation letter for the purposes of the regulations - by a clever deeming scheme this one letter applies to all the current regulations.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is the key regime for risk assessment, and COVID-19 risk assessments should be carried out by all employers. The relevant regulations are the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. There's lots of useful info about COVID-19 safe working on the Health and Safety Executive website.
*Health warning*: guidance is just guidance: the starting point should be the law.
The law is not just the Coronavirus Regulations, there is - as importantly (if not more so) health & safety legislation, as well as other regimes including licensing legislation. If a scheme doesn't offend the Coronavirus Regulations that doesn't necessarily mean it's lawful. It might well not be against the Coronavirus Regulations to host a business dinner for 100 people if you can pull that within the "reasonably necessary for work purposes" exemption, but if you can't write and implement a decent COVID-19 risk assessment for the event for the purposes of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, it won't be lawful.
Then there is guidance. Some of it is statutory and has legal relevance in certain proceedings. A lot of it is non-statutory and is mere advice. Much of the guidance is helpful, Some of less so - some of it makes assertions of what people "must" do which are not founded in any legal principle. There are also statements made by ministerial and Downing Street sources and spokespersons, some of which appears to be statements of what the maker thinks the law should be, rather than what it is.
The Government landing page for guidance is not a bad place to start.
For licensing lawyers (like myself) the BEIS (and now BEIS/DCMS) Working Safely guidance is the most important.
For collection of contact details, don't forget about the Information Commissioner's (very comprehensive and helpful) guidance.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
Here is v1 of my attempt to have some sort of overview of what is going on - it is a work in progress and further versions will be posted if/when I get the time.
Legacy regulations (England) and Prime Ministerial statements
The little-heralded Health-Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, made on 10 February 2020, back when the Government appeared to envisage dealing with the pandemic on a person-by-person basis.
The Prime Minister's statement in the evening of Friday 20 March 2020: We are collectively telling, telling cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open tomorrow.
The Business Closure Regulations, which shut the pubs at 2pm on Saturday 21 March 2020. the day after the Prime Minster said they had to shut.
In a televised address in the evening of 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister's announced the lockdown: From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home.
The No. 1 Regulations, which introduced the lockdown and lasted until the eve of "Independence Day" on 4 July 2020.
The Prime Minister's statement given on 23 June 2020, announcing the move to 1m+ and the (short-lived) sweeping away of restrictions on individuals: The British public have proved again and again, not that it was ever in doubt it, that they can be trusted to do the right thing and to do it with common sense.
The North East North West Regulations (as they became) which foreshadowed the Tier 2 restrictions.
The Three Tier Regulations (as amended): Medium, High, Very High. These largely superseded the No.2 Regulations. Here is an article my colleague Gary Grant and I wrote on the Three Tier Regulations which set out our view at the time as to how to approach it all.
Lockdown 2 in England (or "New National Restrictions" as the government prefers) was announced by the Prime Minister in a speech on 31 October 2020.
Downing Street published a press release the same day which gives some more detail.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 were made at 2.45 pm on 3 November 2020. The explanatory memorandum made interesting reading, not least because it calls what the government likes to refer to as the "New National Restrictions" as a "national lockdown".
My colleague Gary Grant and myself have written an article summarising the restrictions on movement, gatherings and businesses in the regulations.
Lawyers often need to know what the guidance was at a given point in time, and for that, UK Government Web Archive and Wayback Machine are your new BFFs, because the gov.uk website only summarises changes with dates on which they were made rather than provide full legacy documents. Here are links to some of the key guidance landing pages on UK Government Web Archive:
FAQ's - what you can and can't do (CO) (29 March - 12 October)
Working Safely guidance (BEIS/DCMS)
Staying alert and safe (social distancing) after 4 July (CO) (24 June - 12 October)
Meeting people from outside your household after 4 July (DHSC) (24 June - 12 October)
Face coverings (CO)
Safe use of places of worship (MHCLG)
Small marriages & civil partnerships (MHCLG/BEIS)
Legacy guidance (Lockdown 2)
In advance of the making of the regulations, the Cabinet Office issued Guidance which gave an indication of what would be in them. This guidance is frequently updated and the Gov.uk website does not have legacy versions. So here are links to some of those on the National Archives Site, and also some tracked changes documents I have put together.
Coronavirus case law
Other useful resources
The Hansard Society has a Coronavirus Dashboard which is packed full of stats including the number of Coronavirus Regulations, a league table of Government Departments in terms of how many SI's they are pumping out, and a full chronological list of SIs.
Barrister Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers has produced a very helpful table of lockdown regulations with links to the legislation.gov.uk and also his Twitter commentaries and podcasts on the same.
A potted history of how the regulations have affected the licensed sector in England (taking London as an example)
21 March: Certain businesses including nightclubs, pubs, bars and restaurants are required by the Business Closure Regulations to close (with some exceptions for takeaway food and drink).
23 March: Prime Minister's televised statement announcing the lockdown: From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home.
26 March: No. 1 Regulations come into force bringing the lockdown into effect.
4 July: Pursuant to the No. 2 Regulations coming into force the day before much of the hospitality sector (save for nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques and any other venue which opens at night, has a dance floor or space for dancing and provides music for dancing) is permitted to open (the so-called “Independence Day”). The government promulgates guidance including sector-specific guidance on “Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)” . The guidance for “restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services” advised the undertaking of an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment. The restriction on movement was revoked. Gatherings of individuals was largely the subject of non-statutory non-binding guidance although the No. 2 Regulations criminalised certain large gatherings (but not those in indoor commercial premises).
22 July: The Business and Planning Act 2020 comes into force, introducing a temporary pavement cafe licensing scheme (about which I have written with my colleagues Leo Charalambides and Sarah Clover), and modifying the Licensing Act 2003 to liberalise off sales.
24 July: The Face Coverings Regulations come into force.
14 September: the so-called “Rule of 6” was introduced by way of an amendment to regulation 5 of the No. 2 Regulations. Unless an exception applied, no person could participate in a gathering which consists of more than six unless an exception applied. One of the exceptions was that the gathering is a wedding reception, reception following the formation of a civil partnership or reception following the conversion of a civil partnership to a marriage and (i) it consists of no more than 30 persons (ii) it takes place in premises other than a private dwelling and (iii) the gathering organiser or manager (as the case may be) have carried out a risk assessment which would satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and have taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, taking into account (a) the risk assessment and (b) any guidance issued by the government which is relevant to the gathering. There is a similar exception for gatherings for the purpose of the solemnisation of a marriage, formation of a civil partnership or conversion of a civil partnership, which to apply must to take place on religious premises or those approved for the purposes of the Marriage Act 1949 or the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
18 September: What become known (in short-hand) as the Obligations of Undertakings Regulations come into force, requiring premises in the hospitality sector to - amongst other things - take all reasonable measures to ensure that:
(a) no bookings for a table are accepted for a group of more than six persons unless one of the exemptions in regulation 5 of the [No. 2 Regulations] applies;
(b) no persons are admitted to the premises in a group of more than six, unless one of the exemptions … applies;
(c) no person in one qualifying group mingles with any person in another qualifying group where this is not permitted under the [No. 2] Regulations;
(d) an appropriate distance is maintained between tables occupied by different qualifying groups.
18 September: The bulk of the Contact Details Regulations come into force requiring the hospitality sector to collect details of their customers.
24 September: The obligation to display QR codes under the Contact Details Regulations came into force. The 10pm curfew is imposed on the hospitality sector by an amendment to the No. 2 Regulations. A further amendment to those regulations now permits a person responsible for carrying a hospitality business which serves alcohol for consumption on the premises hospitality sector to sell food or drink for consumption on the premises only if (a) the food and drink is ordered by, and served to, a customer who is seated on the premises and (b) the person takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the customer remains seated whilst consuming the food or drink on the premises. The Face Coverings Regulations are extended to cover those entering premises in the hospitality sector and the exception for employees and contractors is removed for sectors including that sector .
28 September: The maximum number of persons in the wedding reception etc exception is reduced from 30 to 15 by way of an amendment to the No. 2 Regulations. Those who may attend a solemnisation of marriage etc is also reduced from a maximum of 30 to 15, but the requirement that this be on religious or approved premises is removed. There is a modification to the Obligations of Undertakings Regulations which replaces the “no mingling” obligation introduced on 14 September with an obligation that all reasonable measures are taken to ensure that “no person joins another group or otherwise acts in a way which would contravene the [No. 2] Regulations”. The hospitality sector is required to take all reasonable measures to stop (a) singing on the premises by customers in groups of more than six or (b) dancing on the premises . There is an exception to the “no dancing” rule at a wedding ceremony or wedding reception “by the couple to whom the wedding relates”. A limit is placed on non-live music (which I and Peter Rogers of Sustainable Acoustics criticised in our joint article, which can be found here).
14 October: The No 2 Regulations are almost entirely superseded by the “3 Tier Regulations”, with a separate regulation relating to “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” areas. London at this point is a “Medium” (or “Tier 1”) area, which is covered by the Medium Regulations. The Rule of 6 is carried over. The curfew is carried over. The requirement for seated ordering, service to and consumption in licensed premises is carried over. The marriages and wedding receptions etc. exceptions are carried over with some irrelevant amendments: the number limit remains 15. The regulatory restrictions on singing and dancing are revoked, as is the limit on non-live music (I like to think because of the criticisms of Peter Rogers and myself barely a fortnight before).
17 October: Greater London becomes a “High” (or “Tier 2”) area, which is covered by the High Regulations. Now there is a restriction on gatherings indoors of two or more unless an exception applies. The Rule of 6 applies outdoors. The marriage and wedding receptions etc exceptions duplicate those found in the Medium regulations. In Very High / Tier 3 areas, receptions are not permitted.
31 October: Prime Minister announces the second Lockdown.
5 November: England goes into the second lockdown.
1 December: England comes out of the second Lockdown and into the All Tiers system.
The Welsh Government website has a great screed of regulations which is comprehensive but not particularly user-friendly.
The "firebreak" regulations are there, but they can also be accessed in more usable format on the leglislation.gov.uk website here. I should give a plug for my colleague Gerald Gouriet QC's article setting out how those regulations have been mis-stated in regulations.
The standard formula
As ever, none of this is legal advice and I don't accept any liability for any reliance you might place on it. If you require legal advice then one option is to instruct a specialist barrister for a bespoke and insurance-backed service, either me (via the contact details on this site), one of my colleagues in chambers (via a clerk), or via the market as a whole, which includes direct access barristers, and has all price ranges from young, keen, clever, ambitious and very reasonably priced second six pupils all the way up to grand QCs.
I am grateful to Ashley Price, Consultant in Infectious Diseases and General Internal Medicine, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, for permitting me to use his drawing of the coronavirus.