The snappily-titled The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 were made at 9.00 a.m. on 23rd July 2020, laid before Parliament at 1.15 p.m. on 23rd July 2020, and come into force on 24th July 2020. These Regulations require members of the public to wear face coverings whilst inside a relevant place specified in the Regulations in England to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus, except in certain limited cases.
The Secretary of State is required to carry out a review of the need for the requirements in these Regulations within the period of 6 months of their coming into force. No regulatory impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations. There is an accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.
The House of Bishops Recovery Group has published COVID-19 Advice on Face Coverings in which it reflects government guidance COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic issued on 17 July, and states:
“We strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus COVID-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.”
Places of worship are not included in the new legislation, and consequently, the wearing of face coverings in them is not mandatory. However, it is strongly advised by the House of Bishops Recovery Group. This new advice has been incorporated into the updates of a number of other documents:
- Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship
- Advice on individual private prayer
- Advice for clergy conducting weddings
- Advice for conducting funerals
- Advice for conducting baptisms
- Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion
The Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion states:
“Each communicant should also be encouraged to sanitise their hands before and after removing their face covering to receive the bread, and before and after putting it on again. The bread should only be administered into the hand with care being taken by the president not to touch communicants’ hands. If this does happen, both the president and communicant should sanitise their hands immediately.”
The ‘Explanatory Memorandum’ link above takes you to the memo relating to the earlier face covering regulations, THE HEALTH PROTECTION (CORONAVIRUS, WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT) (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2020, SI 2020 No. 592.
The Explanatory Memorandum for today’s ‘Wearing of face coverings in a relevant place’ regulations (SI 2020 No. 791) contains this paragraph:
“3. Matters of special interest to Parliament
Matters of special interest to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
3.1 The instrument is made under the emergency procedure set out in section 45R of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (c. 22). The Regulations are made without a draft having been laid and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. It is the opinion of the Secretary of State that, by reason of urgency, it is necessary to make the Regulations without a draft being so laid and approved so that public health measures can be taken in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The regulations came into force on 24th July 2020 and are published on http://www.legislation.gov.uk. The Regulations cease to have effect at the end of the period of 28 parliamentary sitting days beginning with the day on which the instrument is made unless, during that period, the instrument is approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. Further, the Regulations themselves provide that they expire at the end of the period of twelve months beginning with the day on which they came into force.”
So, yet again, the Government disingenuously says that there was no time to lay a draft of the regulations before Parliament (notwithstanding that the intention to make the wearing of face coverings in shops obligatory from 24 July was announced on 14 July (see para 7.4) and the Secretary of State only lays the regulations before Parliament the day after it has risen for the summer recess and less than 24 hours before they are to take effect. What prospect is there that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments will condemn this outrageous way of making new criminal law?