Understanding the law

We know that the service is adapting to the demands and pressures of responding to COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Act 2020, Health Protection Regulations and Government guidance will all enable the police to play their part in the national effort to save lives and protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.

To help policing provide a measured and consistent approach during this unprecedented situation, we have produced a range of resources to explain the new powers and to help forces across the country in their response to COVID-19.

The police's approach to all COVID-19 powers is for officers to engage, explain, encourage the public and only enforce as a last resort.

Health Protection Regulations

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020 and apply to England only. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have equivalent legislation. The purpose of these new powers is to save lives by protecting the public and the NHS.

We have produced guidance which covers these Regulations (reconciling powers in relation to business closures with powers to disperse gatherings and restrictions on movement).

Coronavirus Regulations in Wales

The Welsh Government has laid the Wales coronavirus restriction Regulations 2, which are very similar to the England coronavirus restriction Regulations 1, but include a few notable differences. Welsh officers and staff can use the briefing for England, but should be familiar with the variations and additions.

We have summarised these differences in our Coronavirus Regulations briefing for Wales.

Coronavirus Act 2020

We have developed new guidance for police in England to explain the additional powers which police now have to support healthcare professionals following the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The guidance includes details on the need for officers to work at the direction or advice of healthcare professionals in using these powers.

Policing the pandemic

We've summarised the key points around the new coronavirus legislation, regulations and guidance for frontline police officers and staff in England.

The four 'E's  approach

Engage, explain, encourage, enforce – the police's approach to all COVID-19 powers is for officers to engage with the public, explain the social distancing regulations and the responsibilities we all share, and encourage those who are out without good reason to go back home. Enforcement will only be used as a last resort.

The police are not seeking to criminalise people, but to ensure that people follow the life-saving guidance.

We have produced a range of resources to help forces and officers, including a scenario which illustrates the powers outlined in the Regulations in a particular circumstance. We will be adding more scenarios in the near future.

What constitutes a reasonable excuse? The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have produced a really useful practical guide as to what might and what might not constitute a 'reasonable excuse'. They have kindly allowed us to reproduce this to help officers, however each case still needs to be considered based on the individual facts as they present themselves.

Easter weekend: We have produced a one-page guide to help policing deal with any possible issues over the Bank Holiday in a consistent and measured way.

Health and safety guidance

Public Health England has issued guidance for first responders who may come into close contact with symptomatic people with potential Covid-19.

Travel and retail restrictions

Questions and answers from the Department for Transport concerning police enforcement of travel and retail restrictions because of COVID-19.

COVID-19 policing brief

This document lists the differences between the two versions of the COVID-19 – policing brief in response to the coronavirus Government legislation issued 26 March 2020 and 31 March 2020.

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