The United Kingdom Government has introduced the Coronavirus Act, 2020 on 19th March, 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act so passed has given discretionary powers to the Government to undertake the necessary steps to curb the transmission of the disease. In that view, the Government has effectively suspended any mass congregations, public gatherings and detained the COVID-19 patients to isolation to abate community transmission of the disease.
About The Act
The Act has been implemented for two years subject to ministerial discretion and would be renewed every six months. The Act allows the Government to prevent public gatherings by suspending public transport, services, closure of businesses and detention of persons infected or suspected to be infected by COVID-19.
The Act further provides for the betterment of the medical facilities to the citizens. It also envisions the economic impact which such pandemic might have, providing for reliefs for tenants and protection for volunteers. The Government has further tried that the citizens do not suffer due to a lack of essential services.
Welfare benefits aside, one of the main provisions of the Act postpones local elections which were to be held in May, 2020 till 6th May, 2021. It has further shortened the term of local elected representatives to three years in contrast to the earlier tenure of four years.
The Act has faced a lot of contention by many political parties. This is due to the extended time-limit of the Act. It has been debated that such an extended timeline might be detrimental to the effect of restraining the free movement of the citizens, post the pandemic subsiding. Groups like Liberty and Disability Rights UK have specifically put the Act under the lens, raising concerns over the human rights violation that the Act entails, especially to the rights of minority groups and disabled persons.
The Coronavirus Act, 2020 can be said to be a necessary evil in the time of a pandemic. Even as it puts restrictions on the rights of citizens, it equally provides financial and medical relief. The Act though only introduced in the UK can be seen as an example to be adopted by the other countries as well. It can be said that the Government is trying to take effective measures to curb the pandemic. Even though the long-term implications of the Act cannot be fathomed at the moment, the Act has been introduced as a means to help the citizens of the United Kingdom.