The UK Government introduced emergency legislation on 19 March 2020 to strengthen the UK’s response to the COVID-19 situation by way of the Coronavirus Bill (the “Bill”).

The new powers under the Bill are “temporary” (– effective for a period of two years). However, it should be noted that this period can be extended by regulation from the Secretary of State for multiple six-month periods. This is likely to prove controversial. The Government envisages that the Bill will be passed by Parliament in the next few days, which means that the opportunities for debate and amendment by Parliament are very limited.

The Bill includes wide-ranging powers to: allow the Secretary of State to restrict events and close premises; introduce a national volunteer scheme; extend the interception and collection of data by law enforcement agencies; close borders and extend Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

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