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COVID-19: Ministers granted further emergency powers

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THE Health Minister was given the ability to ban Islanders from going outdoors, order self-isolation and force testing for COVID-19, as further emergency laws were passed by the States yesterday.

States sitting at Fort Regent due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (27662363)

Deputy Richard Renouf now has the extended temporary powers until the end of September, but will only be able to use them to help contain the coronavirus outbreak.

During another emergency sitting, Education Minister Tracey Vallois was given the power to enforce further closures of schools and nurseries, should she wish to.

She was also handed the authority to arrange alternative education arrangements for children.

And laws were passed to enable the Assembly to vote for any further emergency legislation more easily and quickly, without needing to go to the Privy Council for approval.

All of the above measures are time-limited, with the health and education powers due to expire at the end of September, and the move to streamline the passing of emergency laws lasting until the end of the year.

The proposals were largely passed with little opposition or debate with the government and States being forced to respond quickly to the outbreak.

Members also approved the suspension of a States grant of £65.3 million to the Social Security Fund in 2020 and 2021, to give the Treasury Minister Susie Pinel more readily available cash to tackle the impact of the health crisis.

But Health and Social Services Scrutiny Panel chair Deputy Mary Le Hegarat called the proposition in for review ahead of a sitting next week.

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The Health Minister’s proposition to give him the powers to order individuals to stay at home, be screened for the virus or be banned from going out in public was passed unanimously 34 votes to 0.

Outlining his proposals he said: ‘These are far-reaching powers and I’m sure only a few weeks ago none of us would ever have envisaged a need to impose such restrictions on our community.

‘But now these regulations are needed in these unprecedented times.’

He added that the new powers would only be used in relation to containing the COVID-19 outbreak.

‘These are not policing or state or emergency powers, they are public health powers,’ he said

‘For example, the regulations only allow me as minister to bring forward an order compelling people to stay at home, if the risk to public health justifies it.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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