As reported in our earlier briefing (see here) on the emergency legislation introduced by the government to deal with the increasing prevalence and spread of COVID-19, the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (the “Act”) inserted a new Section 31A into the Health Act 1947. This section allows the Minister for Health (the “Minister”) to make regulations for the purpose of preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of Covid-19.

The Minister has now made these Regulations which are accessible here.

What are the Regulations?

The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (the “Regulations”) were signed by the Minister on 7 April 2020, came into operation on 8 April 2020, and will remain in operation until 12 April 2020.

What do the Regulations do?

The Regulations provide that people should not leave their place of residence without a reasonable excuse. They also prohibit people from holding or attending events, unless its purpose has a reasonable excuse.

“Place of residence” means a person’s home, or where she/he does not have a home or is not residing there, such other premises at which he or she is currently residing either temporarily or permanently.

“Reasonable excuse” is provided for in the Regulations as including,

- The provision of an “essential service”, whether for remuneration or not, which in turn is defined in Schedule 2 as including

  • services relating to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishing, animal welfare;
  • services relating to manufacturing;
  • services relating to electricity, gas, water, sewage and waste management
  • construction or development of essential health and related projects relevant to preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of Covid-19
  • services relating to wholesale and retail trade
  • services relating to transport, storage and communications:
  • legal and financial services1
  • Emergency services and defence

- To go to an essential retail outlet for the purpose of obtaining items and services for yourself or a vulnerable person. A list of “essential retail outlets” for the purposes of the Regulations is set out in Schedule 1.

- Obtaining money for self or vulnerable person

- To exercise within a 2 km radius of a person’s residence

- Fulfilling a legal obligation

- Exercising access rights to children

Breach of the Regulations

Section 31A of the Health Act provides that in the event that a person acts in contravention of the Regulations, for example by leaving their place of residence without reasonable excuse, they may be subject to a direction from a member of the Garda Síochána to take such steps as the member considers necessary to comply with the Regulations (the “Direction”). The member can demand the name and address of the person, and failure to provide same is an offence.

Failure to comply with a Direction is an offence punishable on summary conviction to a fine of 2,500 euro, or both.

For employers and body corporates, who for example act in contravention of the Regulations on the prohibition of holding events, the new Section 31A (15) of the Health Act provides for offences committed by body corporates. Where it is proved that the offence was committed with the consent or connivance, or was attributable to any wilful neglect, of a person who was a director, manager, secretary or other officer of the body corporate, or a person purporting to act in that capacity, that person shall, as well as the body corporate, be guilty of an offence and may be proceeded against and punished as if he or she were guilty of the first-mentioned offence.