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The government has confirmed that Covid-19 restrictions against protests in England will be lifted from next week, though gatherings are still likely to have conditions imposed.
Protests will be exempt from the rules against mass gatherings from 29 March under regulations presented to parliament on Monday.
The new rules gives no limit on the number of people who can attend but specifies that the organiser is a business, charity, public or political body – which could include a campaign group or individual – and that the organiser has taken required precautions, which are likely to include social distancing measures.
The regulations also impose a ban on international travel “without a reasonable excuse”, such as work, study, elite sports, medical reasons, caring for a vulnerable person or the wedding of a close family member. The changes mean that those who travel abroad in order to go on holiday could risk a £5,000 fine.
The new regulations set out the government’s roadmap for easing restrictions, which was announced in mid-February, and include the different stages for reopening hospitality and leisure sectors, and for social gatherings. However, the lack of specific dates after 29 March may cause concerns among Conservative MPs.
The regulations set out three steps for the lifting of regulations, which have been outlined by Boris Johnson. They do not detail the fourth step, expected on 21 June, when all restrictions are to lift barring unforeseen events.
Groups of six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors from next Monday. Outdoor sports can also resume then and the “stay at home” instruction will end, meaning people do not need to have a reasonable excuse to leave their homes.
MPs will vote this week on the regulations and on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act, which gives the government sweeping powers to help control the virus. The legislation is due to expire at the end of March.
Though the government would be expected to comfortably win the votes, which are likely to be supported by Labour, a number of senior Tory MPs have raised concerns about the plans to extend the provisions in the Coronavirus Act for six months.
That would mean certain rules were in place well beyond 21 June. Steve Baker, a former minister who is the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group, has said he expects to vote against the powers being renewed.
“The detention powers in the Coronavirus Act are disproportionate, extreme, and wholly unnecessary,” Baker said. “Renewing them would not be reconcilable with the prime minister’s guarantee that we are on a ‘one-way road to freedom’ by 21 June.”
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said his “default position” on the extension of the legislation would be to support it.
“We’re not out of the pandemic,” he told LBC radio. “We are still rolling out the vaccine and in those circumstances, I think the government needs these powers and I would be slow to vote against powers which allow statutory sick pay to start on day one, which is very important during the pandemic, and against provisions which say you can’t be evicted during the pandemic if you’ve fallen behind in arrears
“We will see what the government puts on the table but my default position is that we will be supporting the government on this.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Covid restrictions on protests in England to be lifted on Monday | World news