BILL WATCH 80/2020
[9th December 2020]
Public Health Lock-down Order
Partial Relaxation of Lock-down and Curfew
In a new SI published yesterday ‒ SI 287 of 2020 [link] ‒ the Minister of Health and Child Care ‒ or whoever is performing his functions while he is out of the country ‒ further relaxed the national lock-down and the curfew. A consolidated version of the Lock-down Order, incorporating the amendments made by this new SI, can be accessed on the Veritas website [link].
In this Bill Watch we shall outline the effect of these amendments.
Larger Gatherings Permitted
Until the latest amendments, the Lock-down Order permitted various public gatherings to take place so long as no more than 50 people attended them. That number has now been doubled to 100. In more detail the effect of the amendments is that:
- Up to 100 people may gather at flea markets, vegetable markets and bazaars designated by senior health officers of local authorities. Everyone at these markets and bazaars must observe the social distancing rule (i.e. keep at least one metre apart) and, though the Order does not say so, presumably must wear face masks.
- Up to 100 people can gather to wait for public transport authorised by the Order, i.e. transport provided by vehicles run by Zupco and vehicles used by the State or local authorities to transport their employees. Again, everyone must observe social distancing and ‒ this time the Order does say so ‒ must wear face masks.
- Up to 100 mourners may gather at a funeral so long as they observe social distancing and wear face masks.
- Up to 100 adults may gather to attend public hearings conducted by parliamentary committees, so long as they observe social distancing, wear face masks, sanitise their hands and submit to having their temperatures checked.
- Up to 100 spectators may watch low-risk sporting events, so long as the events have been approved by the Sports Ministry and the spectators observe social distancing, wear face masks, sanitise their hands and submit to having their temperatures checked. Low-risk sports are non-contact sports in which social distancing is possible.
Attendance at religious services is not affected by the latest amendments. Section 5(1)(j) of the Order already allowed up to 100 adult worshippers to attend religious services, and that remains unchanged. This is a pity, because on a strict interpretation the section entirely prohibits children from attending religious services, even in groups of less than 100.
Alteration of Curfew Hours
Curfew hours for certain businesses are altered by the latest amendments:
- Supermarkets, food retail stores, fuel outlets, hunting safari operators, professional hunters and non-essential businesses [i.e. manufacturers and virtually all other businesses that are not essential services] may open daily from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Previously they had been allowed to open from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., so their opening hours are in fact shortened. It is not clear why these businesses should have to open later in the morning. Safari operators and professional hunters are likely to find this particularly irksome.
- Restaurants can open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 10 p.m. They were previously allowed to open at 6:30 a.m. but had to close at 6:30 p.m. so although they must open later in the morning their evening opening hours have been extended.
The SI containing these amendments is even shorter than the previous one but it also contains a surprising number of mistakes. At least one provision ‒ which purports to amend section 5(1)(i) of the Lock-down Order ‒ is impossible to understand.
The Lock-down Order has now been amended seven times and is becoming difficult to follow, even for people who have access to Veritas’s consolidated version. It is high time the Order was completely revised, simplified, and republished.