Why should I stay at home this weekend?

There seems to be a never ending source, particularly on social media, of advice, opinion, guidance and rhetoric over the government’s campaign to try to protect the nation from the deadly Coronavirus, Covid-19.

The purpose of this article is not to offer political opinion but to set out, hopefully in clear terms, what the actual legal position is in relation to the current need to stay at home.

People identified by the NHS as “extremely vulnerable patients” should have received a letter which provides medical advice about self-isolation. This article is not intended to give or replicate medical advice to anyone. If you have received specific medical advice from the NHS then please take it.

Some say we are in lockdown. Some say quarantine. Some say that the “rules” have no legal force, others say there are no rules at all, just advice which they are free to ignore.

For this reason, I thought it would be useful to look at the actual law and answer some frequently asked questions.

Restrictions on Movement – FAQs

Is it true that there are no actual rules to force people to stay at home? This is just advice, right?

No. The government has introduced formal legislation which restricts movement in the UK.

What law has been introduced then?

Statutory Instrument number 350 of 2020, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.

What power did the government have to bring this in?

The Regulations were made by the Secretary of State and laid before Parliament under section 45R of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

When did this become law?

The Regulations came in to force at 1.00pm on 26th March 2020 and remain in force for a period of six months.

What do the Regulations say?

Regulation 6 (1) states that during the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

Does that mean I actually have to stay inside then?

No. The Regulations state that the place where a person is living includes the premises where they live together with any garden, yard, passage, stair, garage, outhouse or “other appurtenance” of such premises.

What if I leave anyway without a reasonable excuse?

Breach of the Regulation is a criminal offence. Proceedings may be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service and are punishable by way of fine at the Magistrates Court. A fixed penalty regime is also in operation.

What’s a reasonable excuse?

Reasonable excuse is not defined. There are basically thirteen examples of reasonable excuses set out in the Regulations. If you want to read them all, click on the link at the bottom of the page to the full Regulations.

I can go out and just say I’m shopping, can’t I?

No. Although Regulation 6 (2)(a) says that a reasonable excuse includes the need to obtain basic necessities, including food and medical supplies.

Is that it in terms of shopping?

Not quite. It is also a reasonable excuse to obtain supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household or to obtain money. This can be either for your own household or for the household of a vulnerable person.

So what businesses can I get basic necessities from?

Here goes. But its quite a long list.

Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops. Off licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries). Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists. Newsagents. Homeware, building supplies and hardware stores. Petrol stations. Car repair and MOT services. Bicycle shops. Taxi or vehicle hire businesses. Banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cash points. Post offices. Funeral directors. Laundrettes and dry cleaners. Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health. Veterinary surgeons and pet shops. Agricultural supplies shop. Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off or collection points, where the facilities are in the premises of a business included in this [list]. Car parks. Public toilets.

Car parks and public toilets?

Yes, really. Nope, can’t explain why.

But I’ve also heard you can still go out for exercise. What can I actually do?

You can. Regulation 2 (b) simply says that it is a reasonable excuse for a person “to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”. That’s it.

Does that mean I can drive to the seaside and take a walk there?

For most people, I don’t think so, no.

I can go out to work though surely?

Yes, but only if it’s not reasonably possible for you to work from home. This is covered by Regulation 2(f).

What are the other reasonable excuses?

Again, click on the link below to read them all in detail but, in summary, they are to get medical assistance, to donate blood, to attend certain funerals, to go to Court, to access certain public services, to continue childcare arrangements, to move house “where reasonably necessary”, to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm or, finally, to attend your place of worship if you are a religious leader.

My car has been parked up for three weeks now. Can I take it round the block to keep it in good order and charge the battery up?

Think about the start point here. It is a criminal offence under the Regulations to leave home without a reasonable excuse. If the purpose of your journey is not one listed above then you commit an offence.

The full Regulations can be found here:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/350/pdfs/uksi_20200350_en.pdf

Rob Kellock

4th April 2020

#stay at home #protect the NHS #save lives