Thank you for contacting me about the renewal of the Coronavirus Act.
The Coronavirus Act is a vital piece of legislation in our national response to the Coronavirus pandemic. It has helped people get more appropriate care faster, helping the NHS and social care harness technology like never before, and allowing the Government to deliver unprecedented economic support in troubled times.
It allowed the creation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which, as of 15 February, has supported 11.2 million jobs, and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which has given almost £20 billion in grants to 2.7 million self-employed individuals.
The Act expired at the end of March and so needed to be renewed to ensure that Local Authorities, the Police and the NHS continue to have the powers needed to respond to the pandemic and to implement restrictions if needed. They are also necessary as we move forward with the cautious easing of restrictions set out in the Prime Minister's Roadmap.
When this legislation was brought to Parliament, we were clear that we would only retain these powers for as long as we deemed necessary to allow us to respond to the pandemic effectively. Therefore, because of the welcome progress in our fight against this virus, is Government is now able to expire and suspend a raft of measures within the Act.
As we move through the steps of this Roadmap, some parts of the Act remain critical, to keep people safe and protect livelihoods, to make sure public services can operate efficiently, and to guarantee people and businesses continue to get the support they need.
The measures outlined in the Government's Roadmap provide a path out of this pandemic, offering us a route to normal life. I am encouraged that we are currently meeting each of the Government's four tests for easing restrictions and remain on track to deliver on vaccine commitments meaning we can move forward to the next stage of the Roadmap from April 12th. The Government is also committing the remaining stages of Roadmap into law.
I have noted your concerns regarding the renewal of the Act and the long term implications, however I can assure you that the vote on extending the Coronavirus Act does not change the plans to cautiously ease restrictions in line with what has already been announced. Should the data allow them to do so and following an assessment of the impact of the previous step, the Government will proceed with the steps set out.
I take onboard your concerns about the power conferred by the Coronavirus Act relating to people who may be infectious. I know that most people have been working extremely hard, and making numerous sacrifices, to comply with relevant public health advice. This provision simply seeks to ensure that isolation measures can be enforced if necessary. In practice, this power would take the form of a public health officer or police officer returning people to places that they have been required to stay. For example, if someone has been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and required to self-isolate for 14 days, and then is found out and about during that time, they would be returned home. Equally, the act empowers police and immigration officers to make sure that individuals attend testing or treatment facilities as required.
I understand that these measures may seem intimidating, and I know that the overwhelming majority of people are following guidance and obeying self-isolation instructions. However, we must be prepared to enforce these measures, to ensure that the small number of people who do not comply are not putting lives at risk by their behaviour.