MPs will vote tomorrow (25 March) on the Government's ‘roadmap regulations’ setting out its proposed next phase of ‘easements’.
If approved, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021, will replace the ‘all tiers’ regulations which were made to enact the tier system at the end of last year.
The ‘roadmap regulations’ will “pave the way to the easing of all restrictions from 21 June”, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
It added: “The government has been clear that the roadmap out of lockdown is cautious, but irreversible. It sets out which measures must continue in order to protect the hard-won progress and ensure the nation can meet the 4 tests which will allow further unlocking to take place. A full review will be conducted in advance of moving to step 2 of the roadmap which will be 12 April.”
The DHSC has also published a Coronavirus Act one-year report: March 2021, which puts forwards 15 measures to expire or suspend (in addition to the mental health powers that were removed in December for England).
These include Section 15, which applies to England and Wales and will be expired for England. This contained the Care Act easements which relaxed some duties to local authorities, allowing them to streamline assessment and charge for care retrospectively.
“There is strong stakeholder support to remove this provision,” the DHSC said. Just eight local authorities in England used the powers but they have not been used since 29 June 2020.
The DHSC insisted that only the most important and proportionate measures are to be maintained. “When this legislation [the Coronavirus Act] was brought to Parliament, the government was clear that it would only retain these powers for as long as necessary to allow us to respond to the pandemic effectively. Because of the welcome progress in our fight against this virus, the government is now able to expire and suspend a raft of measures within the Act.”
While the vote will provide the legal basis for the Act to remain in place for a further 6 months, the entire Act and all its provisions are reviewed in a report laid every 2 months. The roadmap regulations must also undergo statutory review every 35 days.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are today setting out the legal foundations which, if agreed by Parliament, will deliver the roadmap out of lockdown.
“These measures have been vital to reducing infections, hospital admissions and deaths across the country, and thanks to people’s commitment and support, we have made strong progress.
“We are rightly ending as many national measures as safely as possible, while maintaining those which remain necessary and proportionate to help reduce and control infections further as we cautiously but irreversibly ease restrictions and our historic vaccination programme continues apace.”