By Fiona Grahame
On March 25th 2020 the Coronavirus Bill was enacted. This means it is now an Act. It is the Law and it affects everything you do. All the freedoms you once took for granted have now been laid to one side for 2 years.
Introduced to the UK Parliament and endorsed by the Scottish Parliament the Bill was brought in as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to limit the spread of the infection and the loss of life that may arise.
There are been few voices raised in concern at what is included.
Here’s what Baroness Grey-Thompson had to say in the House of Lords debate:
“Many disabled people are still very worried by the Bill. Decisions will be taken by someone else about our usefulness in the next few months that we will have no control over.
“I am starting to worry that disabled people might be seen as expendable during this pandemic. There is a real fear that this will graduate towards a move to register disabled people and that that will be used to decide future provision.
“This is a health and social care obliteration Bill by a different name.”
And Criminal Defence Lawyer Aamer Anwar said that the Act was “wiping out in one stroke civil liberties which we have taken for granted for over half a century. “The War on Coronavirus
What is in the Act ? It includes:
- New powers to cancel events
- Emergency Registration of Health Professionals
- Emergency Registration of Social Workers
- Compensation payments for emergency volunteers
- Death certificates
- Food Supply
- Statutory Sick Pay
- NHS pension schemes: suspension of restrictions on return to work
- Power to suspend port operations
- Courts and tribunals: use of video and audio technology
- Postponement of elections, referendums, recall petitions and canvass
The Coronavirus Act has been produced by the UK Government working together with all the devolved administrations. It has the full support of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
It will be reviewed every 6 months and is expected to be in place for 2 years.
There did need to be legislation to prevent the spread of infection, limiting movement and saving lives – but look further into the powers this Act has now handed over to government – the devil is always in the detail.
- extending to 120 hours (up from 72) how long a person with mental health issues can be detained under an emergency detention certificate
- one professional, an Approved Medical Practitioner being able to grant a Short-term detention certificate. This allows for a person to be held in hospital, or transferred to a different hospital, and their detention for up to 28 days for assessment and/or treatment.
- compulsory treatment order for mental health requiring one Mental Health Officer with only one medical report
- taking away the right of a person to agree to medication
- indemnity for criminal negligence in relation to the pandemic
- changes to social care – relaxing the assessment of those, adults and children, requiring care
- relaxation of the Disclosure procedures which protect vulnerable people
- not complying with limits on gatherings/events which will be enforced by the police will get a summary conviction, a fine of £10,000 or on an indictment, an unlimited fine.
- a wide range of people in the food supply chain requiring to provide information – including supply of seeds, stock , feed and equipment.
The UK government clams it wants to protect and support people but overnight we will be turned into a ‘police state’, albeit to save lives but that does not remove the need for scrutiny, transparency and accountability. The UK government has been exposed as incompetent, callous and uncaring, yet we are expected to provide unconditional support as they go to war against a ‘silent killer.’ Aamer Anwar
Our elected politicians, of every political party in Scotland, have given the Coronavirus Act their consent. They have put into the hands of a right wing Tory Government “to bring in surveillance powers through the back door, only now the excuse is to fight war on a virus” Aamer Anwar. .
This is a Tory Government which has undermined and underfunded the NHS and social care in the UK with not one shred of compassion or indeed of competence.
A Tory Government totally unprepared for a pandemic having cut back services and dismissed the advice of experts. These are the people – Boris and his chums – who have in one quick Act – stripped you, the citizen, of the very human rights the WW2 generation fought to preserve.
It was all done so quickly – and easily – whilst we are in the very real fear of spreading COVID-19 to our loved ones.
“Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark