Senedd roundup: Emergency public health regulations allow detention for virus testing and isolation
Owen Donovan, Senedd Home
Emergency public health regulations allow detention for virus testing and isolation
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) has tabled a series of regulations under the Public Health Act 1984 – similar to regulations introduced in England – to give public authorities more power to deal with the coronavirus pandemic (pdf).
The explanatory memorandum (pdf) says the regulations will automatically apply for at least 28 days once the Welsh Government publicly declares “a serious and imminent threat to public health” – which was issued on 17th March 2020.
The regulations include the following measures:
- All people can be detained by the police, or on the orders of the Welsh Government or a public health consultant, for 48 hours to be screened for coronavirus if that person is suspected of being infected or is believed to be at risk of infecting others. Adults responsible for children will need to ensure those children (defined as anyone under the age of 18) comply with any requirements.
- People (or groups of people) from outside Wales (including the rest of the UK) can be detained under the same conditions if they’ve left an infected area outside the UK within 14 days of arriving in Wales.
- Anyone detained under the above can be subject to “proportionate” restrictions – issued orally and in writing – after being tested. Anyone subject to restrictions can appeal to a magistrate’s court.
- Anyone testing positive for coronavirus can be held in isolation “in a suitable place” for up to 14 days.
- People who try to leave isolation, provide false information or obstruct the work of of anyone enacting the regulations can be fined up to £1,000.
The regulations can only be extended after the 28-day period through a vote in the Senedd, or if the public health declaration is revoked before then. The regulations will completely expire in March 2022.
The regulations are separate from an emergency all-UK Coronavirus Bill, which will set out additional emergency powers and measures available to the UK and devolved governments.
Senedd alters proceedings to continue working through pandemic
The Senedd has approved several changes to proceedings to ensure legislative work can continue through the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic but also to protect staff and AMs during the period of “social distancing” by minimising the need to travel to Cardiff Bay.
- A single plenary session will be held all day on Wednesday 25th March in both the morning and afternoon. It’s unclear if this arrangement will continue after the Easter recess (which runs from 30th March-20th April).
- David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) has been nominated as a Temporary Presiding Officer in case the Llywydd and Deputy Llywydd are taken out of action.
- While Senedd proceedings are still to take place in public and be broadcast (unless deemed impractical to do so), members of the public can be barred from public galleries in the interests of public health.
The Assembly Commission has already announced that the Senedd estate will be closed to the public until at least 26th April 2020, while all non-time-critical debates have been postponed to concentrate on coronavirus.
A statement also says ways will be found to enable AMs to continue to scrutinise the government over Easter recess.
Rail journeys fall across Wales
Wales has seen the first fall in rail journeys for 24 years, which has been blamed on fewer rugby internationals being held in Cardiff during autumn 2019 and poor weather.
BBC Wales reports that Office of Rail & Road statistics showed that there were 33.5million rail journeys in Wales during 2019 compared to 33.6 million in 2018.
Transport for Wales said, “As we move forward we expect numbers to continue to grow as they have in previous years as we deliver our £5 bn investment plan to transform transport throughout the Wales and borders network.”
However, Plaid Cymru said dissatisfaction with rail services over the last year will have played its part in reduced numbers.
Safety improving at Parc Prison
Levels of safety at Parc Prison in Bridgend have reportedly improved, bucking the EnglandandWales trend for increased prison violence.
Relations between prisoners and staff were said to be positive and work to maintain links between prisoners and their families was said to have been the “best we’ve (HM Inspectorate of Prisons) ever seen”.
BBC Wales reports, however, that there are calls for more to be done to help prisoners leaving the estate as 17% are said to be homeless upon release. There was also said to be a lack of resources for the 17% of inmates on remand or imprisoned for sexual offences.
Patrols stepped-up to tackle “heritage crime”
Protected historical monuments will see increased patrols from police and park rangers to deal with increased incidents of vandalism, according to BBC Wales.
Pembrokeshire National Park archaeologist, Tomos Jones, said: “There are regular problems with fires on what are remote sites in the Preseli Hills, where we now know stones for Stonehenge were cut. There have been cases of people chipping away the remaining bluestones and damaging cairns.”