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Coronavirus Update

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2020

On 26 March 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force, imposing restrictions on people’s movements and gatherings, and requiring the closure of certain retail and public premises, to protect public health in light of the coronavirus pandemic. We have kept these regulations under continual review and have amended these regulations four times.

On 23 June 2020, the Prime Minister announced in Parliament the changes being made following the fourth review of the coronavirus regulations. Due to the substantial changes being made at this point, I am revoking the existing regulations and replacing them with The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020. This approach will mean that the regulations are clearer and easier for the general public to understand.

These new regulations mean that from 4 July, a wide range of sectors have been permitted to reopen, with guidance that covid-19 secure measures are implemented in their reopening. This includes the hospitality, leisure, tourism, and recreation sectors. Group prayer and collective worship, overnight stays in self-contained accommodation, including hotels, second homes, and bed and breakfasts are also allowed. Although most businesses are now able to open, a number remain which are still considered too high risk to reopen due to the likely prolonged exposure and close contact between individuals; these businesses are listed in the regulations as having to remain closed.

These new regulations have also removed the restriction on overnight stays. The previous gathering limits have been removed from legislation and replaced with a 30-person limit on gatherings in private dwellings, ships or boats, and public outdoor spaces. This new gathering limit will ensure that police have the powers to prevent the type of gatherings taking place which are not likely to be able to follow social distancing measures, such as house parties, boat parties or raves. These gathering limits are subject to exceptions. These regulations have removed most of the restrictions placed on individuals by the previous set of regulations, however the Government have provided clear guidance outlining what steps people should be taking to protect themselves or others. This outlines that gatherings should be limited to two households indoors, or two households or six people outdoors (whichever is greater). It is very important that everyone continues to follow the guidance—and continues to socially distance from those they do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with).

As national restrictions are rightly relaxed to reflect the lower infection rates, we must ensure that we have the ability to act swiftly and effectively where risky behaviour occurs. These regulations therefore introduce new powers for the Secretary of State to either restrict access to or close public outdoor places (for example beauty spots) by a direction if this is judged necessary to protect public health.

As I announced to the House on 29 June, the changes that came into effect on 4 July will not apply in Leicester. This follows a rise in cases and is based on clinical advice. In addition, non-essential retail based in Leicester has had to close. The new regulations make this a legal requirement. In addition, they will prohibit overnight stays by Leicester residents inside and outside of Leicester, and by residents from elsewhere within Leicester. They will continue to prohibit gatherings of more than six people outdoors and mixing between households, apart from where this is allowed by the support bubble policy. The new regulations will continue to only allow places of worship to open for specific reasons, including private prayer. We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will review the whether this position can be changed by 18 July.

Publicly available Government guidance on is being updated to ensure it fully corresponds with the new regulations.