Coronavirus and the law

Lorna Wincote March 19, 2020

It is currently being reported that the government is to rush through emergency legislation in order to attempt to control the Coronavirus pandemic.  The legislation is likely to focus on restrictions on large gatherings and social interaction generally.  Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.  They have done so due to the fact Coronavirus is a new disease that we are not immune to and because it has now spread worldwide beyond expectations.  

On the 10th of February when we were all still looking forward to some sunshine and bank holiday breaks the government envisaged the current state and put in place The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020.  These don’t go as far as the proposed legislation but do put in place a statutory instrument to force testing and isolation.  The regulations provide the police with additional powers to that they can use reasonable force as part of the process.  Failure to comply can result in a financial penalty.

The proposed legislation will focus on a lockdown scenario that is currently in force in Italy, the county most affected outside of China.  Currently Italians have severe restrictions on their life including leisure, religion and travel.  Shops are closed, though grocery shops and chemists are open for restricted hours.  Italians who must travel can only do so with police authority.

The impression being portrayed is that Italy is acting in solidarity and compliance and a great sense of nationalism in their isolation.  This cannot be the full picture and indeed protests from relatives and prisoners have ensued following suspension of visits.  At least 7 prisoners are reported dead as a consequence of this including 2 suspected drug overdoses from inmates breaking in to the medical unit to access the heroin substitute methadone.  In the Southern Italian city Foggia dozens of inmates broke out of the prison as part of their protest and it is reported that some are still at large. 

Whilst the vast majority of UK citizens will no doubt isolate according to the new legislation imposed we will undoubtedly see dissent.  Such people are likely to face extreme punitive measures including terms of imprisonment.  You cannot help remember the 2011 riots in England when we saw persons of good character being sentenced to terms of imprisonment and wonder were the criminalisation of Coronavirus might end let alone the virus itself.