15.One instrument relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 26) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1337), is drawn to the special attention of the House in this report (see pages 2 to 5 above).
16.This instrument imposes a framework of restrictions throughout England consisting of three Tiers, which will be applied according to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) assessment of what is necessary to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and keep the R rate below 1.
17.As before the restrictions are cumulative:
18.Many of the restrictions, exceptions and penalties are similar to those imposed during earlier phases of the pandemic, but on this occasion, a more precautionary approach has been taken. On the date of coming into force the only areas subject to the lowest controls, Tier 1, are the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The areas in Tier 2 and Tier 3 are listed in Schedule 4. It is envisaged that areas will be moved between Tiers, subject to a 14-day review cycle, which will reassess the risks in each area. The first such review will be on 16 December.
19.DHSC states that decisions on which Tier will initially apply in each area were primarily based on five key indicators:
20.DHSC added that no rigid thresholds have been set because the key indicators need to be viewed in the context of how they interact with each-other as well as the wider context.
21.The Regulations came into effect on 2 December 2020 and will expire on 2 February 2021. In line with the Health Secretary’s undertaking, they were debated in both Houses on 1 December, before they came into effect. However, once again, there was a long gap between the Government announcing the Regulations to the media and their actually being laid; many Peers complained that they had had only 24 hours before the debate to absorb a 75 page instrument and its supporting documents.
22.This instrument also revokes the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.4) Regulations 2020, but there was some uncertainty over when the second lockdown ended and the alternative regime began, meaning certain shops and hospitality venues were not ready to open on 2 December thinking they would have to wait another day. When these Regulations expire or when areas are moved between Tiers as the infection rate changes, the Government should communicate more clearly the dates and changes to those affected.
23.Regulation 4 also allows a general exception for three households to meet during the Christmas period (23 December to 27 December 2020) across all Tiers. The Government acknowledge that this represents an increased transmission risk but says that it must be balanced against the social benefits. Each area’s existing restrictions on hospitality and businesses will remain in place throughout this period of temporary relaxation, as the aim is to enable families to get together rather than suspend social distancing.
24.Although no dedicated Impact Assessment has been prepared as this is a temporary measure, on 30 November 2020 the Government published a summary of the impacts of COVID-19 to date. This includes some limited material on the effectiveness of the first system of Tiers. It also includes consideration of broader factors such as social impact of the restrictions in particular on mental health and on education. The economic section of the analysis estimates that GDP growth in 2020 will fall by 11.3% and includes a forecast of forward growth up to March 2021. Although not a complete or entirely coherent document, we regard the provision of some substantive information as a step in the right direction towards enabling scrutiny of the Tiers policy being presented.
25.To remedy breaches of the requirements listed in regulation 2, this instrument enables Local Authority Officers to issue a Coronavirus Improvement Notice, a Coronavirus Immediate Restriction Notice (which closes premises for up to 48 hours) and a Coronavirus Restriction Notice (which closes premises for up to seven days). Breach of a Notice issued under these Regulations is an offence, although mainly subject to a Fixed Penalty. The objective of these Regulations is to address rapidly any business or activity that is not operating in a COVID-19 secure way. Various other issues relating to offences and enforcement are tidied up, including limiting the power to use “reasonable force” solely to police constables. The instrument will expire six months after it comes into force.
26.The Government is actively encouraging private COVID-19 testing to help develop new and more accurate testing technologies and to make cheaper, quicker testing available. Currently, COVID-19 test providers who remove or analyse bodily cells, tissues or fluid samples are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), but other types of test are not (for example, tests based on a pin prick blood sample that do not need laboratory analysis).
27.The “Regulated Activities” instrument will remedy this discrepancy by removing all COVID-19 test sampling and test examination, including antibody testing, from the CQC regime. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) states that this will also remove a barrier to innovation as novel, non-clinical testing methods that develop will no longer need to be individually exempted from the CQC regime.
28.On the same day, the “Coronavirus Testing Standards” instrument will replace quality assurance of these activities with an end-to-end accreditation scheme for COVID-19 tests and test providers, run by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). DHSC state that the UKAS accreditation process will be quicker and cheaper than CQC registration, which can take up to 10 weeks, and cover a wider range of COVID-19 testing-related activities. Companies offering testing services will need to work, in stages, towards accreditation with UKAS against the relevant international standards. Dates and details are set out in the Explanatory Memorandum. Additional minimum standards apply to those companies that wish to offer test services for Test To Release for international arrivals (See SI 2020/1337 above).
29.Mandatory, uniform standards are required to enable consumer confidence in private testing services and to ensure that results sent to Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace systems are of a high standard. This is also essential as these results can trigger legal duties, for example, the requirement to self-isolate.
30.This instrument introduces temporary measures in relation to corporate insolvency and annual general meetings in response to the pandemic:
31.These Regulations amend the original International Travel Regulations following the sixth statutory review which was completed on 16 November 2020. In Schedule 2 the exemption for Crown Servants and government contractors is amended and an exemption for people working on subsea fibre optic telecommunications infrastructure is added. The list of specified competitions in Schedule 3, which enables an exemption from self-isolation for elite sportspersons, is updated.
32.Following review by the Joint Biosecurity Centre it also adds Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, Israel, Jerusalem, Namibia, Northern Mariana Islands, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and The United States Virgin Islands to the list of exempt countries, territories and regions from which passengers arriving in England after 21 November 2020 are not required to self-isolate.
33.The Committee asked the Department for Transport (DfT) for more information on how these changes are decided. DfT explained that “Ministerial decisions on international travel corridors are informed by risk assessments provided by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, working closely with Public Health England (PHE), using a methodology endorsed by the 4 Chief Medical Officers (CMO) of the UK”. Further detail about the factors taken into consideration as part of each risk assessment is included at Appendix 2. The House may particularly wish to note this information as passengers coming from non-exempt countries and territories after 15 December 2020 will be able to shorten their period of self-isolation by taking a test after five days (see SI 2020/1337 above).
34.These Regulations amend the International Travel Regulations to add Aruba, Bhutan, Kiribati, Mongolia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu to the list of exempt countries and territories at Schedule A1, from which passengers arriving in England are not required to self-isolate. With effect from the same date, 28 November 2020, passengers from Estonia and Latvia were required to self-isolate due to increased infection rates in those countries.
35.In response to an outbreak of a mink-variant of COVID-19, Denmark was removed from the list of exempt countries and territories; following a review, the special requirements in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Travel from Denmark) (England) Regulations 2020 are revoked. However, passengers from Denmark are still required to self-isolate for 14 days.
4 HL Deb, 1 December 2020, .
6 HM Government, Analysis of the health, economic and social effects of COVID-19 and the approach to tiering (30 November 2020): [accessed 3 December 2020].
7 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020 ().
8 DHSC, ‘COVID-19 risk assessment methodology for inbound international travel’ (24 November 2020): [accessed 3 December 2020].