On Friday 20 March 2020, the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins, having been passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann at unprecedented speed, in light of prevailing circumstances.
Having been introduced to Dáil Éireann on Thursday 19 March, the Bill was passed the following day by Seanad Éireann, having been convened on an emergency basis for that specific purpose.
Whilst the Bill underwent very minor amendment as it passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas, the key amendment before Seanad Éireann was the insertion of the ‘sunset’ clause, meaning that an end date for the applicability of the emergency powers of November 2020 was added in to the draft legislation, an element which had not previously formed part of the draft legislation. To that end, the far-reaching and potentially draconian nature of the emergency powers were deemed to require temporal limitation, albeit that it would appear to be generally accepted that they will only be used in the context of tackling the pandemic and related issues arising.
2. Key Provisions
As detailed in our previous article which can be accessed here, the Act provides for emergency measures aimed at minimising the risk to human life and public health posed by the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Most notable, the Act amends the Health Act 1947 in the following key areas:
- Prohibition/ Restriction of certain events with ancillary enforcement powers;
- Powers of detention in respect of persons who are suspected to be possible sources of infection of COVID-19 with ancillary enforcement measures;
- Powers to designate areas as areas of infection of COVID-19.
In addition, the Act contains significant amendment and extension of the Social Welfare Acts in respect of entitlement to illness benefit for persons who have been diagnosed with or are a probable source of infection of the COVID-19 virus and to provide for amendments in relation to both Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance to mitigate the economic effects of the spread of the virus.
Ministerial regulation in these key areas is expected in the coming days and will be followed closely.
Whilst the powers are set to be extensive, the specific detail of the regulations in terms of detention of persons suspected to carry the virus who refuse to self-isolate; power of entry onto premises and also the significant enforcement powers, remains to be seen.
We will monitor, with interest, the practical application and effectiveness of the measures which are being introduced against a most dynamic backdrop of increasing levels of infection and constantly evolving guidance at national and international level.
For further information, please contact Anne Lyne firstname.lastname@example.org or Lyn McCarthy email@example.com.Back to Full News
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About the Authors
Anne is a partner in the Employment team at Hayes solicitors. She has considerable experience advising and representing employers and employees on all aspects of the employment relationship from pre-employment matters to termination.
Lyn is an Associate Solicitor in the Healthcare team at Hayes Solicitors. Lyn advises clinical practitioners and indemnity bodies in respect of the defence of medical negligence claims and also in respect of the defence of professional disciplinary matters before Committees of inquiry.