The Coronavirus Act was extended for another six months on Tuesday without a formal vote in Parliament.
Apparently, the act has been stripped of some of its most ‘draconian’ powers’ (which enabled Prime Minister Boris JohnsoN to avoid a Tory ‘revolt’)
The remaining covid powers have been extended to 24th March 2022 however, and without a full vote in Parliament despite a small handful of MPs shouting “no” when asked if they wanted to pass it.
The Mirror reports: While the Coronavirus Act is not behind actual lockdowns in England and Wales – powers for those flow through a separate law passed in 1984 – it still allows authorities to impose a string of restrictions on the public.
Until last month, these included a power to detain people suspected of having Covid for up to 28 days, which was used 10 times in the first year of the Act.
The Act also included powers for the Health Secretary to shut down individual events, gatherings, shops or restaurants if they pose a specific risk.
And the Act allowed authorities to shut individual schools, as well as ports, railway stations and airport, where there was a specific danger to public health.
However the powers for events, venues, schools and ports were not used in the first year of the Act, because authorities could rely on other lockdown laws instead.
Facing pressure from Tory MPs, Boris Johnson announced that the vast majority of Coronavirus Act powers – including on detention, events, gatherings, shops and restaurants and schools – would expire last month.
The means only a few of the more draconian powers – including the power to suspend port operations – now remain in the Act.
However, the Act also includes laws designed to improve the state’s response to the pandemic.
Those include the temporary registration of social workers, paramedics and other NHS staff if trainees or retirees need to surge into the system, and the ability to pay sick pay from day one of absence.
Labour MP Dawn Butler said the “authoritarian” Act had been passed with “no scrutiny” and “it was never proportionate”.
She added she was “pleased” that the most draconian powers – including detention powers – had been removed.
She added 292 charges were incorrect, affecting “distressed people in the pandemic”.
Former Tory rebel Mark Harper said he would no longer oppose the extension of the Act after some of the “most offensive” powers on detention were removed.
The chair of the Covid recovery group raised concerns that the booster jabs roll-out was not going fast enough and should be sped up “to put us in the strongest possible position ahead of the winter.”
But Tory MP Sir John Redwood said the Act should now “lapse” because there had been a “material improvement” in the situation despite soaring cases.
“What is the reason why we have to have these powers hanging over our head when there doesn’t seem to be a need to use them?” he askd.
Ex-cabinet minister Dr Liam Fox added: “There is a strong resentment in many quarters that I have to say that I share about giving any Government extension to powers that are quite as blank as these are.”
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid has defended continuing some Covid-19 provisions, arguing they were “still necessary and proportionate to help with the pressure”.
He told MPs: “We do certainly expect more pressure as we head into winter, we’ve been very open about that and that is why the vaccination programme, both the Covid vaccination programme, the boosters and the flu vaccination programme remain important.
“But there are provisions in this Act which are still, I believe, still necessary and proportionate to help with the pressure.
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