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Sat, 11 July 2020

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Emergency powers to tackle coronavirus spread become law after government bill rushed through Parliament

Emergency powers to tackle coronavirus spread become law after government bill rushed through Parliament

The emergency coronavirus powers have passed through Parliament and become law (PA)

2 min read

Sweeping new powers to tackle the spread of Covid-19 have become law after emergency legislation was rushed through Parliament.

After it passed through both Houses without a vote, the Commons deputy speaker Eleanor Laing confirmed the Coronavirus Bill had received Royal Assent on Wednesday afternoon.

Its swift passage from bill to law also paves the way for Parliament to shutter for at least four weeks from Wednesday evening in response to the outbreak.

MPs and peers had been due to go on Easter recess from the middle of next week, but Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said they will be sent home early and will not return until 21 April at the earliest.

The unprecedented legislation had moved though every stage in the Commons in a single session, after receiving cross-party support.

It then passed through the Lords just as smoothly, followed by the final hurdle of getting approval from the Queen.

The powers within it could last for up to two years, and include reducing the number of doctors required to sign off on sectioning those with mental health issues from two to one.

It also gives police the ability to force those suspected of infection into isolation, and officials the ability to restrict or close all transport networks.

But after a backlash from Tory MPs it will have to come back to Parliament every six months to give the Commons a vote on whether the measures should be renewed.

In the Lords, health minister Lord Bethell expressed his "profound thanks" to those involved with the Bill and thanked the other political parties for working “in a collaborative and supportive way during this whole process".

And opposition frontbencher Baroness Thornton said it had been a "perfect exercise in consultation and work across the House".


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