Today, the worst Parliament in British history will vote whether to renew the Coronavirus Act 2020 for the second time. But what powers does this hastily-passed legislation grant the Government, and is any Member of Parliament voting for their continuation fit for office?
Presented without an impact assessment or evidence of proportionality, the 348 pages, 102 Provisions and 29 Schedules of the Coronavirus Bill had just 1 week of reading and 3 days of debate before being made into law on 25 March. Its powers include the following Provisions:
10. Modifies mental health and mental capacity legislation to allow the requirements for the detention and treatment of patients to be satisfied by the opinion of a single doctor. Extends the time for which a patient can be detained from 72 hours to 120 hours prior to sectioning.
Reduces to 1 the number of doctors’ opinions required to detain and move a person between court, prison and hospital. The Act claims that, by reducing the number of doctors required to enact these powers, ‘undesirable delay’ in sectioning those with coronavirus will be avoided.
19. Empowers a doctor who has not seen the deceased to certify the cause of death without the death being referred to the coroner before cremation of the deceased. Allows a person to register the death without attending the register office . . .
. . . and extends the list of people who can give the relevant information to the registrar to funeral directors, who require no medical training. The Act claims that this will free healthcare professionals to support the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
22. Empowers the Secretary of State to increase the number of Judicial Commissioners, and to vary the appointment process at the request of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. This allows the Commissioner to directly appoint temporary Judicial Commissioners for up to 6 months.
. . . renewable to a maximum period of 12 months. The Act claims this provision is to cover for a shortage of Judicial Commissioners as a result of the effects of COVID-19.
23. Empowers the Secretary of State by statutory instrument to modify the time limits relevant to the issue, approval, duration, renewal and modification of warrants under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. At the request of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner . . .
. . . the lifespan of a warrant can be extended from 5 days to up to 12 working days. The Act claims this is in order to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, by protecting national security and prevent serious crime during ‘a period of potential widespread upheaval.’
24. Empowers the Secretary of State to extend the time limit for the retention of biometric material such as fingerprints and DNA. The Act claims this is to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on assessing whether such material should be retained for the purposes of national security.
30. Since, under a statutory instrument made on 5 March, COVID-19 had been added to the list of notifiable diseases, according to which any inquest into a death for which the coroner suspects the cause was a notifiable disease must take place with a jury . . .
. . . this provision modifies the existing legislation to make COVID-19 not a notifiable disease. The Act claims this is to lessen coroner workload due to COVID-19 deaths. In other words, COVID-19 is considered sufficiently dangerous for the doctor to be obliged to record it . .
as the underlying cause of death on the death certificate if she even suspects it as a possible or contributing cause or the deceased tested positive for SARs-CoV-2 at the time of death, but not dangerous enough for a jury to establish whether it is the actual cause of death.
37. Empowers the State to require or direct temporary closure of educational institutions and registered childcare premises; to specify directions in connection with their running; and to remove or vary existing requirements contained in education and childcare legislation.
51. Fills any gaps in existing powers to ensure the detention, screening and isolation of people who may be infected or contaminated with SARs-CoV-2.
Schedule 21 clarifies that a person is ‘potentially infectious’ if, at any time, they are, or may be, infected or contaminated with coronavirus, there is a risk that they might infect or contaminate others, or the person has been in an infected area within the 14 days preceding.
52. Empowers the Secretary of State to prohibit attendance at or impose restrictions on events and gatherings, prohibit or restrict entry into premises, to close premises, and to prohibit departure from premises . . .
. . . if he deems it necessary for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, delaying or otherwise controlling the incidence or transmission of coronavirus.
The Secretary of State may take such action as is necessary to enforce compliance with any prohibition, direction or restriction in this provision, and any person who fails to comply commits an offence liable on summary conviction to a fine.
59, 60, 61. Empowers the Secretary of State, by regulations made by statutory instrument, to postpone elections and referendums due to be held in England in the period after 15 March; to postpone elections scheduled for 7th May; to postpone other elections and referendums . . .
. . . (such as by-elections and local referendums) until 6 May 2021; with the Minister of the Cabinet Office, to postpone a recall petition under the Recall of MPs Act 2015 until 21 April 2021; and to make supplementary provision to these regulations.
78. Empowers local authorities to relax requirements to hold local authority, committee or joint committee meeting, to change the times or places or frequency with which such meetings are held, the manner in which persons may attend, speak at, vote in or otherwise participate . .
the extent of public admission and access, and the places and manner in which documents relating to meetings are to be available to the public. The Act claims this is to lessen the anticipated increase in workload for local authorities as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
86. Authorises any expenditure incurred by a Minister, Government Department or other public authority by virtue of this Act, or in connection with or as a result of coronavirus or COVID-19, to be paid by money provided by Parliament by way of grant, loan, guarantee or indemnity.
89. Issued notice that the Act expires at the end of the period of 2 years, on 25 March 2022. However, a Minister of the Crown may by regulations make transitional, transitory or saving provision in connection with the expiry of any provision of this Act.
90. Empowers a relevant national authority by regulations to alter the expiry date of any provision of this Act.
98. Requires a 6-month parliamentary review of the motion ‘that the temporary provision of the Coronavirus Act 2020 should not yet expire’. Such a review must be held within 7 sitting days of 6 months from the day on which the Act was passed, and each subsequent 6 month period.
However, MPs will only be able to vote on the continuation of the powers conferred by the Act if Parliament is sitting. If they are not able to vote, the powers will remain in force.
The explanatory notes state the Coronavirus Act is ‘to enable the Govt to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic’; that powers are ‘extraordinary measures’ that do not apply in normal circumstances; and are therefore limited to 2 years.
The lifetime of the Act can be ended early, if the ‘best scientific evidence’ supports a policy decision that these powers are no longer needed. However, with evidence supporting the opposite decision, the lifetime of the Act can also be extended ‘for a further temporary period’.
According to a convention agreed to by the Opposition, the Coronavirus Act was ‘nodded through’ by MPs, rather than approved by parliamentary vote. That same day, 25 March, both Houses voted themselves into recess, thereby removing their scrutiny of Govt actions when most needed.
On 30 September, at its first 6-month review by Parliament, the powers conferred by the Coronavirus Act 2020 were extended for a further 6 months.
These included the powers in Schedule 21, which can be exercised on the mere suspicion of a Public Health Officer — which is to say, anyone designated by the Secretary of State for the purpose — that we are a ‘potentially infectious person’. This means anyone so designated can:
Use whatever force is necessary, including police constables, immigration officers or security personnel, to cover our face with a mask and remove us to a place of detention for 48 hours;
Take a biological sample (blood, nasal swab or respiratory secretion) from us without our permission, against our will and without a lawyer being present;
Compel us to answer questions about our movements and personal contacts, gain access to our health records, contacts details and whatever else they deem necessary for their assessment;
Impose upon us, following their assessment, whatever restrictions and requirement upon our movements, actions and contacts they decide is necessary for an additional 14 days;
And do so under the threat of our further detention, without time limit, together with the charge of a criminal offence and being taken into custody if we refuse or attempt to leave.
If MPs vote for the continuing violation of our human rights under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the legitimacy of this Parliament to represent us is null and void, and we must reconstitute a new Commons that defends and enforces the rights and freedoms of the citizens it represents.
For this and more about the 408 coronavirus-justified Regulations that, behind the cloak of this manufactured crisis, have implemented the revolution in the UK state to a constitutional dictatorship ruled by Government decree in perpetuity, see our report.…
These are the MPs who voted to extend the Coronavirus Act. It's important we hold them accountable for this decision. You may wish to post the original link on your MP's Twitter page, so their constituents know the powers over them their MP has voted for.…
Please be careful. MPs respond to any questioning of their authority by calling it a threat and informing the police. So make it clear you are only informing their constituents of the consequences for them of their MP's collaboration with this Government.
I've now posted this on the pages of every one of the 176 Labour MPs with a Twitter account who voted to extend the Coronavirus Act, together with a link to the original post explaining its contents (click arrows bottom right). But I could do with a hand on the 305 Conservatives.
Significantly, not a single one of these MPs has declared their support for the Coronavirus Act on their Twitter page. In this absence of transparency, it's important we inform their constituents what powers over them their elected representative in Parliament has voted for.

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More from @9thfloor

23 Mar
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All these articles are available to read for free on the ASH website, as are the other 300 or so articles we've published over the past 6 years. The pdf files and printed books are for those fed up with reading from a screen, and/or who want to support our research.
The books are A4 format, printed in premium B&W ink on 80gsm white paper with a softback matt cover. COVID-19 has 287pp, Brave New World 204pp. We'll probably price them at £30 plus postage and packaging, and we'll throw in the electronic pdfs with all the links for free. Image
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This is the trouble with resistance to the biosecurity state forming around individuals and celebrities without political or moral commitment who view these regulations purely as an infringement on their personal liberties and lifestyles.
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