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Revised English Covid Regulations from 8 March 2021

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Watershed

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The revised English Covid Regulations coming into effect from 8 March 2021 have been published. They appear to contain all the changes the Government announced in their roadmap press conference last Monday. As ever, barrister Adam Wagner has produced a layman's explanation of the changes on Twitter.

The 2 biggest changes are:
  1. Open air recreation in a public outdoor place is once again a specifically defined reasonable excuse (with members of your household/bubble, or 1 other person). This means you can, for example, sit on a park bench or lounge on the beach without needing to worry about justifying your presence to anyone
  2. The requirement to fill out a form giving your details and reasonable excuse if you want to travel out of the Common Travel Area. The form is clearly intended to discourage international travel, by giving the impression that you need watertight evidence of your excuse, and that only the limited selection of defined reasons on the form are really "good enough" reasons
There are a few minor changes, for example to accommodate polling, making face coverings mandatory in polling stations - albeit forbidding police etc. from removing people from the polling station if they fail to wear a face covering. Political campaigning is now a specifically defined reasonable excuse.

University students are also offered a specifically defined reasonable excuse which permits them to return to their non-term-time accommodation (i.e. home) by 29 April, and at any point thereafter go back to their term-time accommodation (i.e. student digs).
 
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MikeWM

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Thanks, was wondering when these would arrive.

I'm sure there was some agreement with Tory backbenchers last year that country-wide changes to the regulations would be voted on in Parliament *before* they came into force, and yet we're back to this tripe:

the Secretary of State is of the opinion that, by reason of urgency, it is necessary to make this instrument without a draft having been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

On the plus side, the 'Open air recreation' part theoretically opens things up considerably, just like in May last year.

The mask change is odd - as far as I can see it says you have to wear a mask in a polling station (unless exempt) but if you're not exempt and refuse to wear one then there's nothing that can be done about it (?). I suppose it could mean they are obliged to find some other mechanism to let you vote without being in the station (filling in your ballot outside?)

The move in the direction of 'exit visas' is troubling. Need to make sure that goes away again smartish.
 

Yew

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The move in the direction of 'exit visas' is troubling. Need to make sure that goes away again smartish.
Go back 18 months, and only Communist Dictatorships would have such things.
 

Darandio

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I'm sure there was some agreement with Tory backbenchers last year that country-wide changes to the regulations would be voted on in Parliament *before* they came into force, and yet we're back to this tripe:

Indeed. And in this case it's been 12 days since the original 'roadmap' announcement with much of it leaked way before then. In the context of hasty decisions over the past 12 months, that's ample time for it to go before parliament but we all know they are prepared to abuse 45R wherever it suits them.
 

initiation

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Well I guess friday afternoon is better than 30 minutes before midnight like some previous rule changes...

As Hansard note, only 5.5% of Covid related statutory instruments have been laid before parliament for approval before coming law.
Such use of emergency powers back last year may possibly have been justified but it is deeply troubling that this continues when as noted above, the roadmap was published at the start of last week.
 

Watershed

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Thanks, was wondering when these would arrive.
Oh don't worry, they make sure it's never in time to receive any sort of scrutiny. It's only an Amendment Regulation after all - how important can it be? :|

I'm sure there was some agreement with Tory backbenchers last year that country-wide changes to the regulations would be voted on in Parliament *before* they came into force, and yet we're back to this tripe:
You might as well repeal the requirement for a declaration of urgency. At least that way they wouldn't have to lie through their teeth with each of these sets of Regulations.

On the plus side, the 'Open air recreation' part theoretically opens things up considerably, just like in May last year.
Yes, the "stay at home" requirement effectively comes to an end if your reason for being out and about can be "I fancy a bit of sunshine and a chinwag". However the "stay at home" messaging will likely remain, probably until well into April.

The mask change is odd - as far as I can see it says you have to wear a mask in a polling station (unless exempt) but if you're not exempt and refuse to wear one then there's nothing that can be done about it (?). I suppose it could mean they are obliged to find some other mechanism to let you vote without being in the station (filling in your ballot outside?)
Enforcement can still take place, but only once you have voted - i.e. you would have to be permitted to vote (whether indoors or out), and you could have your details taken, be arrested etc. afterwards. A small but significant protection of the right to vote that I'm surprised the government thought appropriate to include (it hardly beats the "wear a dirty rag or you'll kill grannies" drum).

The move in the direction of 'exit visas' is troubling. Need to make sure that goes away again smartish.
I'm foreseeing that it will remain pretty much forever, just like the "temporary" security measures introduced after 9/11. Far too much political capital to be gained by dealing with the contemporary scourge - at the moment it's apparently Instagrammers daring to go on holiday.
 

Silver Cobra

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Yes, the "stay at home" requirement effectively comes to an end if your reason for being out and about can be "I fancy a bit of sunshine and a chinwag". However the "stay at home" messaging will likely remain, probably until well into April.

The "Stay At Home" rule is set to end from 29th March, but I wouldn't be surprised if it does somehow remain beyond that date.
 

Watershed

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The "Stay At Home" rule is set to end from 29th March, but I wouldn't be surprised if it does somehow remain beyond that date.
There's been a gaping disparity between the law and the messaging/guidance etc. throughout most of the last year.
 

route101

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Sit on a bench from 8th of March? Come on already been able to do that.
 

DB

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Yes, but now you'll be able to do it without fear of being arrested. Progress...:frown:

Dunno about elsewhere, but round here lots of people have been doing beyond what our esteemed rulers are going to "allow" us to do from next Monday - sitting on benches, hanging around in the park and town centre, groups of half a dozen teenagers wandering round together, etc. The police are keeping a low profile - not seen any sign of them for ages.
 

Tazi Hupefi

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Noticeably, as before, there is no law prohibiting travelling well outside your local area. My interpretation, although the police, especially in London, disagree, is that you can leave your home and travel wherever you like, as long as for a permitted reason. Nothing stopping you from lawfully travelling from Nottingham to London for a picnic etc. Technically you could travel from Carlisle to Penzance to buy food under the existing (and new) legislation. However there is a real issue with police enforcing guidelines, despite College of Policing repeatedly reminding Chief Constables there are no statutory provisions to do so.

I've been itching to get stopped personally, could be quite profitable!

"What is your reason for leaving the house?"
"No comment"

"What is your name and address?"
"No comment"

They can arrest to verify details, but they first need reasonable suspicion that I don't have a valid reason for leaving the house. Me simply declining to provide a reason (I'm not obliged to) is not sufficient to form reasonable suspicion by itself, but I suspect the police will disagree, at which point they will probably arrest, which suits me as it's opening themselves up to straightforward compensation claims. Simply declining (lawfully) to provide it isn't an offence. It's for the police to prove I don't have one. I'm under no obligation to assist the police.

Excluding at airports and international terminals.
 
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Mojo

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I knew the nutters wouldn't be able to resist making face coverings mandatory in polling stations :(
 

DB

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I knew the nutters wouldn't be able to resist making face coverings mandatory in polling stations :(

Of course not. It seems that every minor lowering of some restrictions (allowing people to do what they are already doing anyway) has to be accompanied by mandating muzzles in yet more places and constantly reiterating how essential they are. Last time I went to Tesco the illuminated advertising hoarding outside was displaying a creepy NHS piece of propaganda stating that 'every covered face makes a difference'. Does it? We're still waiting for the 'growing evidence' promised by the government last July...
 

Watershed

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Noticeably, as before, there is no law prohibiting travelling well outside your local area. My interpretation, although the police, especially in London, disagree, is that you can leave your home and travel wherever you like, as long as for a permitted reason. Nothing stopping you from lawfully travelling from Nottingham to London for a picnic etc. Technically you could travel from Carlisle to Penzance to buy food under the existing (and new) legislation. However there is a real issue with police enforcing guidelines, despite College of Policing repeatedly reminding Chief Constables there are no statutory provisions to do so.
Yes, although it remains the case that, in order to avail of a defined reasonable excuse (for example open air recreation), it must be "reasonably necessary" to remain away from home to do the activity in question.

One interpretation of that requirement (naturally favoured by many police officers and forces) is that it implies an unwritten limit to the distance you can travel - it becoming unnecessary to remain away from home once you go beyond the nearest place you could reasonably do the activity in question.

The more liberal interpretation is that it must merely be reasonably necessary to remain away from at all to undertake the activity, for it to be a reasonable excuse and thus legal. In other words, you need only be out and about to undertake an activity you can't do at home - and not necessarily do so as near to home as possible. The intention behind the 'work from home' requirement may lend credence to this interpretation.

It's very unfortunate that the government has not seen fit to use clearer language for this key restriction.

"What is your reason for leaving the house?"
"No comment"

"What is your name and address?"
"No comment"

They can arrest to verify details, but they need reasonable suspicion that I don't have a valid reason for leaving the house. Simply declining (lawfully) to provide it isn't an offence. It's for the police to prove I don't have one. I'm under no obligation to assist the police.
True, but the possibilty of an adverse inference arises as soon as you start to be questioned, so if you do have a reasonable excuse it may be wiser to disclose it at the earliest opportunity - or instead to walk away and refuse to engage in any questioning at all (although this has its own predictable implications!).

The general nature of the "stay at home" regulation means that the police would almost certainly submit that someone's presence in a public place inherently gives them cause for reasonable suspicion of an offence, if no reasonable excuse is proferred. I can't say whether that would be successful, but is that something you would want to argue against, and do you trust the courts to accept your argument?
 

Tazi Hupefi

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Yes, although it remains the case that, in order to avail of a defined reasonable excuse (for example open air recreation), it must be "reasonably necessary" to remain away from home to do the activity in question.

One interpretation of that requirement (naturally favoured by many police officers and forces) is that it implies an unwritten limit to the distance you can travel - it becoming unnecessary to remain away from home once you go beyond the nearest place you could reasonably do the activity in question.

The more liberal interpretation is that it must merely be reasonably necessary to remain away from at all to undertake the activity, for it to be a reasonable excuse and thus legal. In other words, you need only be out and about to undertake an activity you can't do at home - and not necessarily do so as near to home as possible. The intention behind the 'work from home' requirement may lend credence to this interpretation.

It's very unfortunate that the government has not seen fit to use clearer language for this key restriction.


True, but the possibilty of an adverse inference arises as soon as you start to be questioned, so if you do have a reasonable excuse it may be wiser to disclose it at the earliest opportunity - or instead to walk away and refuse to engage in any questioning at all (although this has its own predictable implications!).

The general nature of the "stay at home" regulation means that the police would almost certainly submit that someone's presence in a public place inherently gives them cause for reasonable suspicion of an offence, if no reasonable excuse is proferred. I can't say whether that would be successful, but is that something you would want to argue against, and do you trust the courts to accept your argument?

It wouldn't even get to court. You also have an alarmingly poor interpretation of the law I'm afraid to say!

There is no obligation to provide a lawful reason, therefore declining to provide one cannot be used against you. You just need to have a lawful reason.
 

Watershed

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It wouldn't even get to court. You also have an alarmingly poor interpretation of the law I'm afraid to say!
Perhaps I am just realistic about the powers the police are happy to exercise, and the extent to which courts will hold them back from doing so!
 

Tazi Hupefi

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Perhaps I am just realistic about the powers the police are happy to exercise, and the extent to which courts will hold them back from doing so!
I'm well aware of what the police are up to, and they are unsurprisingly only progressing cases against people who they know will roll over, and even then, the CPS aren't usually very interested unless you've been up to no good in relation to other offences.

I'd love the police to stop and arrest me! I do actually have faith in the CPS and courts for COVID legislation, they learnt the hard way in the early days, and are now reluctant to prosecute.

https://www.cps.gov.uk/cps/news/januarys-coronavirus-review-findings is enlightening! More chance of winning the lottery than ending up before a court! January saw just 115 successful prosecutions in the whole of England, and that covered the busy festive season! From experience, most of these will be people not turning up to court / people who don't even exist from false details, and being found guilty in their absence, or charged with other offences at the same time.

53 withdrawn/not guilty and found to have been incorrectly charged. 14 of the 53 were seriously wrong.
 
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Ianno87

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I knew the nutters wouldn't be able to resist making face coverings mandatory in polling stations :(

Of course not. It seems that every minor lowering of some restrictions (allowing people to do what they are already doing anyway) has to be accompanied by mandating muzzles in yet more places and constantly reiterating how essential they are. Last time I went to Tesco the illuminated advertising hoarding outside was displaying a creepy NHS piece of propaganda stating that 'every covered face makes a difference'. Does it? We're still waiting for the 'growing evidence' promised by the government last July...

You're only in a polling station for 5 minutes, tops.

Hardly worth getting worked up about.
 

Tazi Hupefi

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You're only in a polling station for 5 minutes, tops.

Hardly worth getting worked up about.

It's interesting legally though, because they appear to accept that the mask wearing could cause interference with the ability to exercise democratic rights, which is why they've had to essentially remove the enforcement power. In my view this opens the door to challenge mass mask wearing in other areas of life where there is potential for basic rights to be impeded.
 

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You're only in a polling station for 5 minutes, tops.

Hardly worth getting worked up about.
Any imposition of face covering is worth challenging. Especially given the type of people I expect will be working in polling stations who might be less willing to be tolerant of non-wearers.
 

Ianno87

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Any imposition of face covering is worth challenging. Especially given the type of people I expect will be working in polling stations who might be less willing to be tolerant of non-wearers.

I'd rather get some other freedoms back than whinge about having to wear a face covering for 5 whole minutes on one occasion.

Or, if you still really don't want to wear one, get a postal ballot.

Quite simple.
 

DB

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I'd rather get some other freedoms back than whinge about having to wear a face covering for 5 whole minutes on one occasion.

Or, if you still really don't want to wear one, get a postal ballot.

Quite simple.

Getting freedoms back in one area should not entail increasing impositions in other areas unless there is a very good reason - and in this case there simply isn't. They need to be rolling back mask wearing along with everything else, not rolling back some restrictions to a level that reflects what people are already doing anyway while increasing yet again the list of places where masks must be worn.
 

Ianno87

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Getting freedoms back in one area should not entail increasing impositions in other areas unless there is a very good reason - and in this case there simply isn't. They need to be rolling back mask wearing along with everything else, not rolling back some restrictions to a level that reflects what people are already doing anyway while increasing yet again the list of places where masks must be worn.

It's literally a one off requirement for one day, that's not even an "imposition" because you don't actually have to visit a polling station to be able to vote.

I'd argue the fact that not everybody will have been vaccinated by polling day is a good enough reason.
 

DB

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It's literally a one off requirement for one day, that's not even an "imposition" because you don't actually have to visit a polling station to be able to vote.

I'd argue the fact that not everybody will have been vaccinated by polling day is a good enough reason.

It's really not a good enough reason - those at risk will pretty much all have been vaccinated by then, so it's not necessary. It might only be one day, but it's yet one more thing to add to the long list of petty restrictions.

Incidentally, when did we go from 'those at risk need to be offered a vaccine' to 'everyone must be vaccinated and those who refuse it are enemies of society'? Last summer and autumn the first of those defintely applied, but now the latter very definitely does, and nobody has explained why it's necessary for those under 50 and without medical conditions to be vaccinated at all (they wouldn't be for flu, which is probably more dangerous than Covid to that demographic).
 

RomeoCharlie71

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I'd argue the fact that not everybody will have been vaccinated by polling day is a good enough reason.
On that premise then, face coverings should be mandatory forever, as "everybody" will never be vaccinated, never mind by May 6th?
 

greyman42

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Dunno about elsewhere, but round here lots of people have been doing beyond what our esteemed rulers are going to "allow" us to do from next Monday - sitting on benches, hanging around in the park and town centre, groups of half a dozen teenagers wandering round together, etc. The police are keeping a low profile - not seen any sign of them for ages.
I live in the centre of York and it is exactly the same. It is unusual to see a police officer.
 

route101

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I live in the centre of York and it is exactly the same. It is unusual to see a police officer.
Same in Glasgow, see police around but loads of people out and about. Not seen any officers question people in Glasgow Central, they must do it randomly.

Noticeably, as before, there is no law prohibiting travelling well outside your local area. My interpretation, although the police, especially in London, disagree, is that you can leave your home and travel wherever you like, as long as for a permitted reason. Nothing stopping you from lawfully travelling from Nottingham to London for a picnic etc. Technically you could travel from Carlisle to Penzance to buy food under the existing (and new) legislation. However there is a real issue with police enforcing guidelines, despite College of Policing repeatedly reminding Chief Constables there are no statutory provisions to do so.

I've been itching to get stopped personally, could be quite profitable!

"What is your reason for leaving the house?"
"No comment"

"What is your name and address?"
"No comment"

They can arrest to verify details, but they first need reasonable suspicion that I don't have a valid reason for leaving the house. Me simply declining to provide a reason (I'm not obliged to) is not sufficient to form reasonable suspicion by itself, but I suspect the police will disagree, at which point they will probably arrest, which suits me as it's opening themselves up to straightforward compensation claims. Simply declining (lawfully) to provide it isn't an offence. It's for the police to prove I don't have one. I'm under no obligation to assist the police.

Excluding at airports and international terminals.

I wonder if you got stopped at the station and you were on your way home, what if you answered ' I'm going home'.
 

furgus2

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Any imposition of face covering is worth challenging. Especially given the type of people I expect will be working in polling stations who might be less willing to be tolerant of non-wearers.
I usually work in polling stations but now that face coverings have to be worn there, I shall decline if offered a job in the May elections. I can just about cope with wearing one for 10 minutes in the supermarket once or twice a week but there’s no way I could put up with one all day from 07.00 until 22.00. I really do detest masks and the sooner they go, the better. i must add that if I was working in the polling station that day, I’d be very tolerant of non-wearers.
 

takno

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I usually work in polling stations but now that face coverings have to be worn there, I shall decline if offered a job in the May elections. I can just about cope with wearing one for 10 minutes in the supermarket once or twice a week but there’s no way I could put up with one all day from 07.00 until 22.00. I really do detest masks and the sooner they go, the better. i must add that if I was working in the polling station that day, I’d be very tolerant of non-wearers.
That's the problem though. People who have any insight into the genuine terror, pain or discomfort they can cause people will just opt out of working them. All that will be left will be the "well at first I was a bit wary, but it didn't cause me any real trouble, and you must be the same" brigade. Personally I think I'm going to apply for a postal vote this time, just to avoid the risk of conflict.
 
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