03 April 2020

Coronavirus Act 2020: police working with health professionals to make people safer and save lives

Briefing for police: this Act provides forces with additional powers relating to potentially infectious persons. Please refer to the attached documents for full details.

As part of the national police response to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we've summarised the key points around the new legislation, regulations and guidance for frontline police officers and staff in England.


  • Enacted on 25 March 2020
  • Use of powers under this legislation will be public health led. The powers are to support public health officers in the testing and treatment of individuals where needed, to avoid further transmission of the COVID-19 virus
  • Partnership arrangements with Public Health England and collaborative decision-making are key to enforcing these provisions
  • A public health officer can direct or remove a person to a place suitable for screening and assessment. They can ask a constable to support this process if necessary. This should occur only in the most exceptional circumstances
  • A constable must seek the advice of a public health official in judging whether they have reasonable grounds to suspect a person is potentially infectious unless this is impracticable. If an officer has reasonable grounds they can remove a person to a place suitable for screening and assessment or keep the person at that place until a public health officer can assess them. Details of what constitutes reasonable grounds can be found in the full Coronavirus Act brief
  • Police are able to use reasonable force to enforce these powers where necessary. However, in line with the Health Protection regulations, enforcement should be the last option
  • Coronavirus Act 2020

What it means for the public

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.

The police are taking a joined up approach with healthcare professionals to help save lives.

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

Individuals with responsibility for a child, where practical, must ensure the child follows with any directions, instructions or restrictions from police and give information and assistance as needed.

All decisions to quarantine, place restrictions or require information can only be made by public health officers and are subject to regular review and appeal.

Policing powers for officers under the Coronavirus Act

This legislation is to support healthcare professionals, in exceptional circumstances.

Police should obtain advice from a public health officer when considering whether they have reasonable grounds to suspect someone is infectious. Details of what constitutes reasonable grounds can be found in the full Coronavirus Act brief.

If a public health officer identifies an individual suspected of being infectious, they can direct or remove that person to a place suitable for screening and assessment. They can ask a constable to support this process if necessary.

In most cases, the police's role is to prevent a breach of the peace while health officers perform their public duty.

Police can keep a person at a place suitable for screening and assessment for up to 24 hours, this can be extended by a superintendent (or above) by another 24 hours, if necessary.

There are five main summary offences created by the legislation. These offences are punishable on summary conviction (magistrates' court) by a fine not exceeding £1,000.

A person commits an offence if they:

  1. fail without reasonable excuse to comply with any direction, reasonable instruction, requirement or restriction

  2. abscond, or attempt to abscond, while being removed to or kept at a place of detention or isolation

  3. knowingly provide false or misleading information in response to a requirement to provide information

  4. obstruct a person who is exercising or attempting to exercise a power

  5. fail without reasonable excuse to ensure that a child they have responsibility for complies with any direction, instruction, requirement or restriction given to or imposed on the child, or to provide such information and assistance in relation to the child as is reasonably necessary and practicable in the circumstances

Personal safety

Continue to follow the Public Health England guidance for first responders who may come into close contact with symptomatic people with potential COVID-19.

Use the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that your force has provided.

COVID-19 Hub

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