The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force at 1pm on 26 March 2020. The new laws broadly reflect the Prime Minister's statement on Monday (23 March 2020) and legalises the forced closures of non essential businesses, lists the permitted shops which can remain open and introduces new police powers of enforcement.
This article summarises the key aspects of these Regulations and what it means for business owners.
Businesses which must close
Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations lists those businesses (food and drink) which must close during the emergency period, except for the purposes of selling takeaway food. This includes all restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs. There are a number of exceptions to this restriction such as those cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home, school, prison or army bases, as well as services providing food or drink to the homeless. Canteens at the workplace can only remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff at that workplace to obtain food.
Part 2 of Schedule 2 of the Regulations lists those businesses which must close with no exceptions. This includes cinemas, theatres, nightclubs, museums and galleries, spas, gyms, car showrooms, tattoo parlours, playgrounds to name but a few.
Businesses which may remain open
The list of businesses which may remain open – Part 3 of Schedule 2 – include food retailers (food markets, supermarkets, convenient stores), off licences, funeral directors, banks, pharmacies, newsagents and post offices.
Important medical and health services will also remain open including dentists, opticians, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other mental health services. Veterinary practices can also remain open.
Petrol stations, car repair and MOT services, bicycle shops and hardware stores will also be allowed to remain open during the emergency period. Other categories such as taxi or other vehicle hire businesses, laundrettes, car parks, public toilets and storage and distribution facilities also make the list.
How long will these restrictions be in place?
The “emergency period” started when the Regulations came into force (26 March 2020) and will continue until such day and time as directed by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has the power to lift the restrictions in its entirety or in relation to certain categories of businesses as deemed necessary. The Secretary of State must review the restrictions every 21 days, the first review being carried out on the 16 April 2020.
The situation with COVID-19 is changing on an almost hourly basis and it is likely there may be further restrictions to businesses in the coming months.
If you have any questions about how the coronavirus might impact your business, get in touch with our team of expert lawyers today.