Coronavirus (COVID-19): An update on the law as Scotland moves to phase 2

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This blog seeks to provide a brief overview of the changes set out by the First Minister on 18 June 2020 as Scotland moves to phase 2 after lockdown. These changes took effect from 19 June 2020.

On 8 June 2020 SPICe published a blog Coronavirus (COVID-19): the lowdown on the laws of lockdown and the move to phase 1. The blog looked at the laws in place around COVID-19 and the difference between what is provided for in legislation and what is in guidance. It may be helpful to read that blog if you haven’t already before continuing to read this blog.

On 18 June 2020 the Scottish Government reviewed the the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (“the Regulations”) as it is required to do by law and decided to move to phase 2 of its route map out of lockdown.

Some changes to the lockdown measures are made by amending the Regulations so as to extend the meaning of ‘reasonable excuse’. Below is a summary of the main changes provided for by the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (SSI 2020/182) (‘the amending regulations’) which came into force on 19 June 2020.

Outdoor meetings of households

As set out above, the Regulations were amended on 29 May to allow a person to take part in outdoor recreation in certain circumstances with members of their household and with members of one other household. The changes made by the amending regulations which came into force on 19 June increased the number of households that may meet outdoors from two to three. This means that people can now use outdoor public and private space for recreational activities like sunbathing and picnicking with members of their own household and with members of up to two other households at a time. The guidance issued by the Scottish Government advises that social distancing of two metres should still be observed and that no more than eight people should meet at one time.

It is an offence (unless a person is deemed to have a “reasonable excuse”) to meet more than 8 people from a maximum of three households and a person can be subject to a fine for non-compliance.

Extended households

The Regulations have been changed to allow for a “qualifying household” (a person who lives alone or a single parent household where the children are under 18 years of age) to form an extended household with one other household. In effect, this ‘extended household’ is treated as a single household. This means that a person who lives on their own can visit, provide assistance or stay with a household with which they are creating an extended household.

Face coverings on public transport

It is now an offence to travel on “a passenger transport service” (e.g. a train) or be on “passenger transport service premises” (e.g. a train station) without wearing a face covering. The amending regulations mean that the police have the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice to anyone 18 or over if they fail to comply with the requirement to wear a face mask. A person is able to cite a reasonable excuse as to why they are not wearing a face mask and the new regulations provide a non-exhaustive list of reasonable excuses. The list of reasonable excuses includes if to wear a face covering would cause a person severe distress because of a physical or mental disability; temporarily removing the mask to take medication; avoiding injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm and “to eat and drink where reasonably necessary”. There are also specific exemptions from the requirement to wear a face mask which include travelling on a school transport service’ children under five and travel where there is a partition between the public and the driver.

Other changes

  • Individuals are now able to enter a place of worship (on their own or with members of their household) to take part in individual prayer or contemplation with social distancing.
  • The amending regulations expand the list of circumstances in which accommodation providers can offer their services to include offering accommodation to a person travelling for work or to provide voluntary or charitable services. This is only where it would not be reasonably possible for the person to return to their place of living – for example, those required to travel long distances for work which cannot be done from home.
  • The Regulations have also been amended to allow businesses which are required to be closed to the public (those listed in Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the Regulations) to take steps in preparation of re-opening. These businesses are allowed to take preparatory steps to ensure that physical distancing requirements can be met when they are allowed to open.

The Scottish Government has updated its guidance to reflect the move to phase 2.

Sarah Atherton, Senior Researcher, SPICe research