Emergency public health regulations allow detention for virus testing and isolation

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Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) has tabled a series of regulations under the Public Health Act 1984 – similar to regulations introduced in England – to give public authorities more power to deal with the coronavirus pandemic (pdf).

The explanatory memorandum (pdf) says the regulations will automatically apply for at least 28 days once the Welsh Government publicly declares “a serious and imminent threat to public health” – which was issued on 17th March 2020.

The regulations include the following measures:

  • All people can be detained by the police, or on the orders of the Welsh Government or a public health consultant, for 48 hours to be screened for coronavirus if that person is suspected of being infected or is believed to be at risk of infecting others. Adults responsible for children will need to ensure those children (defined as anyone under the age of 18) comply with any requirements.
  • People (or groups of people) from outside Wales (including the rest of the UK) can be detained under the same conditions if they’ve left an infected area outside the UK within 14 days of arriving in Wales.
  • Anyone detained under the above can be subject to “proportionate” restrictions – issued orally and in writing – after being tested. Anyone subject to restrictions can appeal to a magistrate’s court.
  • Anyone testing positive for coronavirus can be held in isolation “in a suitable place” for up to 14 days.
  • People who try to leave isolation, provide false information or obstruct the work of anyone enacting the regulations can be fined up to £1,000.

The regulations can only be extended after the 28-day period through a vote in the Senedd, or if the public health declaration is revoked before then. The regulations will completely expire in March 2022.

The regulations are separate from an emergency all-UK Coronavirus Bill, which will set out additional emergency powers and measures available to the UK and devolved governments.

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