COVID-19 legislation and guidance update, March

This post includes a rolling update of new legislation and guidance on coronavirus COVID-19 during March 2022 *.


Overview

Current restrictions in UK

A summary of the restrictions in the countries of the UK is available in our post Lifting COVID-19 restrictions in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland: update, (22 February 2022). Many faith bodies and other organizations have yet to updated their guidance, links to which are available below.

Public Inquiry

On 1 March 2022, the government launched the website UK Covid-19 Inquiry, the portal for the independent public inquiry to examine the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK.  This is the independent public inquiry to examine the UK’s preparedness and response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to learn lessons for the future.

The Inquiry has been established under the Inquiries Act 2005. This means that the Chair will have the power to compel the production of documents and call witnesses to give evidence on oath.

The Rt Hon Baroness Heather Carol Hallett DBE has been appointed Chair of the Inquiry, and will set out her vision for the its work in the coming months; this will include consulting the public on the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry once she has received a draft from the Prime Minister.


Legislation

England

Two key items of primary legislation contain emergency powers relating to coronavirus and health protection in England.

These regulations set out the restrictions in England:

Also:

Wales

Two key items of primary legislation contain emergency powers relating to coronavirus and health protection in Wales.

These regulations set out the current restrictions in Wales.

Also:

  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations 2022, WSI 2022/378 (W.95). These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 to provide that those Regulations expire at the end of the day on 18 April 2022 (rather than 28 March 2022).

    The principal Regulations continue to provide that no alert level applies to Wales. This means that none of the restrictions and requirements in Schedules 1 to 4 to the principal Regulations applies (and if future regulations were to move Wales to any of alert levels 1 to 4, the restrictions and requirements in Schedules 1 to 4 to the principal Regulations could be amended before taking effect). These Regulations also amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Functions of Local Authorities etc.) (Wales) Regulations 2020 to change their expiry date to 18 April 2022.

  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 8) Regulations 2022, WSI 2022/388 (W.97). These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020:

    • omit Part 3 of the principal Regulations, which requires persons to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus, or are close contacts of persons who test positive for coronavirus (but self-isolation continues to be recommended in Welsh Government guidance);

    • change the principal Regulations’ requirements for face coverings to be worn on public transport and in certain indoor public places so that they now only apply in health and social care premises;

    • omit the specific requirement for persons who are election campaigning to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus (but political parties will continue to be required to take such reasonable measures under regulation 16 of the principal Regulations in relation to their activities on regulated premises);

    • omit the specific offence in the principal Regulations of being involved in organising a large unlicensed music event.

Scotland

Four key items of primary legislation contain emergency powers relating to coronavirus and health protection in Scotland.

These regulations set out the current restrictions in Scotland.

In addition:

Northern Ireland

Two key items of primary legislation contain emergency powers relating to coronavirus and health protection in Northern Ireland.

These regulations set out the current restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Also:


Guidance

England

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)Find out how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in your workplace. Shops, branches, and close contact services – Information box added. From 24 February, you’ll no longer be legally required to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 or if you’re an unvaccinated close contact of someone who’s tested positive. DBEIS and DDCMS, (21 February 2022).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations, From 24 February, you’ll no longer be legally required to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 or if you’re an unvaccinated close contact of someone who’s tested positive. Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Cabinet Office, (21 February 2022).

Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19). Added callout box signposting “COVID-19 Response: Living with COVID-19”. DDCMS, (21 February 2022).

Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread, Find out how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Cabinet Office, (21 February 2022).

NHS QR code venue posters: privacy notice, The QR venue check-in system was withdrawn in February 2022. This document is provided for archive and reference purposes. DHSS, UK HSA (1 March 2022).

Guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19), UKHSA, Updated 14 March 2022.[There is separate guidance for funerals or commemorative events in England during the coronavirus pandemic.]§

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funerals and commemorative events during the coronavirus pandemic. Updated to reflect changes in the new Government response to living with coronavirus (COVID-19), 21 February 2022. There is no longer a legal requirement for people with COVID-19 infection to self-isolate. Attending a funeral or commemorative event may present a higher risk of spreading COVID-19. This guidance contains updated advice to reduce this risk, especially for people at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 including those with a severely weakened immune system. (22 March 2022).§


Statement on end of COVID-19 legislation in Scotland

On 22 February 2022, the Scottish Government issued COVID 19 Scotland’s Strategic Framework Update February 2022. In a speech, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the details of the updated Strategic Framework to manage COVID-19, primarily through public health advice, vaccination and treatment, rather than through legal restrictions. She set out an indicative timescale for remaining legal protections to be lifted, as follows:

  • vaccine certification will no longer be legally required from 28 February, although the app will remain available for any business that wishes to continue voluntary certification to reassure customers;
  • current legal requirements on the use of face coverings, the collection of customer details for contact tracing purposes, and for businesses, service providers and places of worship to have regard to guidance on COVID and to take reasonably practicable measures set out in the guidance are expected to be lifted on 21 March, subject to the state of the pandemic:
  • lateral flow and PCR tests will continue to be free, ahead of a detailed transition plan being published on the future of Scotland’s test and protect programme in March.

People who test positive for COVID-19 will continue to be asked to self-isolate to reduce the risk of infecting other people. The recommended period of self-isolation will be kept under review.


COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland

Health Minister Robin Swann has stated that, though the Department of Health will carefully consider the UK Government’s Living With COVID plan for England and its implications for the Province, no decisions have yet been taken on any changes to Test and Trace in Northern Ireland:

“My Department continues to keep all aspects of the COVID-19 test and trace programme in Northern Ireland under review to ensure it remains proportionate and effective.

Our key priorities for testing include ensuring that it is prioritised for those who need it most. It is also imperative that we have appropriate contingency planning in place, with flexible testing capability which can be rapidly deployed to respond to any future variants or seasonal surges. Robust surveillance systems must also be maintained, to ensure any new developments in the pandemic are swiftly detected.

Keeping the public safe, in particular those at highest risk of severe illness, will continue to be at the centre of our considerations. Any policy changes will be informed by the latest clinical and scientific advice and consideration of the COVID situation in Northern Ireland.”


COVID-19 restrictions in Wales

The Welsh Government announcement were made on March 4.

Also


Consultation

Consultation outcome: Revoking vaccination as a condition of deployment across all health and social care: consultation response, DHSC, (Updated 1 March 2022).§


Commentaries

BMJ: Covid-19: Is the government dismantling pandemic systems too hastily?, (28 February 2022).

House of Commons Library: Expiry of the Coronavirus Act’s temporary provisions. Some provisions in the Act are permanent but others are temporary. Temporary provisions, if they have not already expired, will expire by 25 March 2022 (two years after the Act was passed). The Government has set out its plans for how this deadline will be dealt with in its Living with Covid policy paper. This Insight explains the implications of the impending changes. (2 March, 2022).


Church of England

Updated: 21 March 2pm

The following documents have been updated to reflect the latest Government advice:

  • COVID-19: Opening and managing church buildings, v3, (21 March 2022). This is an update on version 2.4: “The Government has published its plan for living with COVID-19 and from the 24th February has removed the remaining restrictions put in place to manage the pandemic. This update provides the most recent references to remaining guidance to help churches make decisions that continue to balance provision of services with care for the vulnerable”.
  • Risk Assessment Template for Opening Church Buildings to the Public, v11. “This update has been reviewed to reflect the removal of restrictions from 24th February 2022 and the publication of the Government’s Living With Covid guidance. The Church of England’s guidance may also be a helpful reference point”.§

Updated: Thursday 24 February 3pm

Latest Information (formerly FAQs – scroll down on CofE web page).

  • What is the current guidance for opening and managing churches?
  • How do we keep buildings well ventilated in winter?
  • Will churches use vaccine certification vaccine passports?
  • How do I get a flu vaccine?
  • How can we complete a risk assessment for our church building?
  • What guidance is there for pastoral visiting now to individual homes and care homes?
  • How should we use NHS test and trace?
  • How can I contribute to vaccination equity campaigns?
  • How can I get a lateral flow test?
  • Is there guidance on live streaming from church buildings?
  • Copyright issues for live streaming
  • What resources are available to support mental health and emotional well-being?
  • What evidence is there for keeping the church clean?
  • Is there guidance on how we can hold our PCC meeting or APCM?

Documents

Current Guidance

Current Resources

The below Marking our communities resources have been prepared by The Liturgical Commission:

Similarly, advice from the Roman Catholic Church and other organizations such as the RSCM and CCCBR is unchanged from January 2022.


Law and Religion UK


Church in Wales

Our guidance notes have been updated to reflect the latest regulations for Covid-19. It remains a legal requirement to prepare a written risk assessment to control the risk of Covid transmission and the guidance seeks to help local church councils consider what would be appropriate in their circumstances.

In addition to face coverings no longer being required (except in retail, transport or health settings), the QR codes on the Covid-19 app for England and Wales are no longer operational as a means of recording attendance.

The Bench of Bishops has signalled that, subject to local risk assessment, the common cup might be restored from Easter Day. There is no requirement to do so and communion in one kind remains valid. No communicant should feel compelled to take the common cup. Updated guidance for the administration of Holy Communion has been provided to help you think about how to conduct communion safely and to consider the relative risks of different approaches. You should consider your approach carefully and communicate this to your congregation.

Update: 23rd February 2022

The Bench of Bishops has approved the guidance on the imposition of ashes (ashing) under Alert Level Zero. From the 28th February, face coverings will only be legally required in retail, public transport and health and care settings. Face coverings will not have to be worn in places of worship or community buildings from that date but can still be a useful measure to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission as part of local risk management measures. It will be noted that face coverings are recommended during the imposition of ashes given the close proximity of people.


Post last updated,  29 March 2022 at 18:41.


* Information on COVID-19 on L&RUK

These updates are now published at the start of each month; they are not reissued, but new items are added as they become available, providing a “rolling update” of the latest developments. They are also added to COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance which is  the main source of  information, and listed with the newest items last (unlike the CofE documents, infra); items in the monthly updates yet to be added are marked “§“.  Earlier updates are here.

Church of England documents

Church of England documents are listed under their full title and issue number, in the same order as they appear on the Church’s web site.

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Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "COVID-19 legislation and guidance update, March" in Law & Religion UK, 1 March 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/03/01/covid-19-legislation-and-guidance-update-march/
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