The Coronavirus Act 2020 was given royal assent by the Queen on 25 March 2020, and so it is now on our statute books.
The 329-page emergency Bill passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords in just three days. It grants ministers, local authorities, the police, coroners and health professionals unprecedented powers, set to last for the duration of the pandemic.
Here are the need-to-know basics of those parts of the Act relevant to community care, mental capacity and mental health practitioners.
When does the Act come into force?
Section 87(1) of the Act provides that the Act came into force on the day on which it was passed, subject to a number of exceptions which are set out in section 87(2).
As such, the vast majority of the Act came into force when it was passed, on 25 March 2020.
Mental Health Act provisions: when do they come into force?
The temporary modifications to the Mental Health Act 1983 appear in Part 2 of Schedule 8 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.
Pursuant to section 87(2), they will not come into force until regulations are passed. Schedule 8 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 is therefore not yet in force.
As soon as this Schedule comes into force, or any guidance is published, we will do a further post. For now, check out this post on the effect of the modifications here.
Care Act provisions: when do they come into force?
The temporary modifications to the Care Act 2014 are set out in Part 1 of Schedule 12 of the Act.
Update 1 April 2020: Pursuant to new regulations, Schedule 12 came into force on 31 March 2020. More details on our separate post here.
How long will the Act remain in force?
The Act is set to expire two years after the date on which it was passed (section 89) - so by March 2022 . This is subject to a power to alter the expiry date to make it earlier or up to six months later (section 90). There is also a power to suspend and revive the operation of any provision of the Act (section 88).
Parliament will review the operation of the Act as a whole every six months (section 98). The first review will take place on or around 25 September 2020. MPs will vote at that stage on whether the temporary provisions in the Act should expire or continue for another six months.