Govt Extends Lockdown Powers for Local Councils Until July

A pedestrian wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks past a closed-down shop in the City of London on January 15, 2021. - Britain's economy slumped 2.6 percent in November on coronavirus restrictions, official data showed January 15, 2021, stoking fears that the current virus lockdown …
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The government has “quietly” extended local lockdown powers until mid-Summer, according to reports, raising concern of lockdown sceptics over the Conservative government’s overreach of power and the “destruction” of civil liberties.

“The Government has quietly extended lockdown laws”, journalist Christopher Chope wrote in The Sunday Telegraph, revealing that Matt Hancock made changes to the Coronavirus Act earlier this month.

The changes relate to the powers of local government to force the closure of public spaces as well as pubs, restaurants, and other hospitality venues. The measures were meant to expire last week, but have now been extended to July 17th — more than 16 months since the start of the first lockdown.

A Department of Health told the newspaper: “The regulations that encompass the measures – including local authority powers – automatically expire after six months.

“As we are currently in a national lockdown it was necessary to renew the regulations, which means they are automatically extended for another six months.

“However, these measures are still subject to the statuary review point.”

Reacting to the report, former Brexit Party MEP and peer in the House of Lords Claire Fox echoed the Telegraph piece’s headline, saying: “‘Quietly changes law’. Was ever there a more chilling phrase? Councils — can I appeal to you. I know you often appeal to central Gov for more powers; but not this way, surely?”

Social conservative and Heritage Party leader David Kurten, who is running for mayor of London, said: “The Johnson Regime has again ‘quietly changed the law’ to extend lockdown powers to 17th July. The unnecessary destruction of our civil liberties and economy will never end until the people end it. I support the Great Reopening.”

While actor Laurence Fox, cultural commentator and founder of the Reclaim Party, predicted: “It won’t end until we all say ‘enough’. That day is coming.”

The extending of the powers is in line with recent remarks from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other ministers that the lockdown may not even begin to be lifted by Spring.

“I think it’s too early to say when we will lift some of the restrictions,” Mr Johnson said last week, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying on Sunday that “we’re a long, long, long way” from cases being low enough to talk about coming out of lockdown.

The Telegraph also reported sources as saying that the UK will face a “half-way house” lockdown after Easter, where there will be some easing of restrictions for businesses and the public while the rest of those over 50 receive their vaccinations.

It is believed that ministers want the measures lifted in time for the G7 summit of world leaders in Cornwall in June. Schools would be the first to reopen, followed by the lifting of other restrictions on personal freedoms, leading to hospitality venues reopening, but with strict social distancing involved.

However, a Downing Street spokesman claimed: “It’s not a timetable under discussion.”

Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the Tory lockdown-sceptic Coronavirus Recovery Group, said the restrictions were causing “untold damage to people’s health, livelihoods and prospects”.

“It’s not enough to expect public compliance with prolonged severe measures, without giving some hope, and showing some optimism and light at the end of this very dark tunnel,” Mr Baker added.

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