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Introduction of the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 and its impact on the construction sector


Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Government has introduced a number of measures over the last number of weeks with the objective of slowing and preventing the further spread of COVID–19.

On 20 March 2020, the Government introduced the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (the “Act”). Section 10 of the Act amended the Health Act 1947 and empowered the Minister for Health (the “Minister”) to make regulations “for the purpose of preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of COVID-19 (including the spread outside the State) or where otherwise necessary, to deal with public health risks arising from the spread of COVID-19”.

On 27 March 2020, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, announced public health measures (the “Public Health Measures”)[1] urging the public to stay in their home until 12 April 2020 (the “Current Lockdown Period”) in all circumstances except for the situations outlined in the Public Health Measures.

One of the exemptions outlined in the Public Health Measures is where essential services are provided. From a construction perspective, the following construction works are listed as essential construction services:

(i) essential health and related projects relevant to the COVID-19 crisis, and supplies necessary for such projects;

(ii) repair/construction of critical road and utility infrastructure; or

(iii) delivery of emergency services to businesses and homes on an emergency call-out basis in areas such as electrical, plumbing, glazing and roofing.

The introduction of the Public Health Measures resulted in the majority of on-going “non-essential” construction projects pausing works on site. The Public Health Measures provided that the measures contained therein would be “reflected in the regulations to be made under the Act and will be enforced by the Garda Síochána.

It was originally anticipated that the Minister would introduce such regulations within days of the publication of the Public Health Measures. Ultimately, the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A- Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (the “Regulations”) came into operation on Wednesday 8 April 2020, 12 days after the first announcement of the Public Health Measures. The Regulations give legal effect to the Public Health Measures and confer powers of enforcement on the Garda Síochána.

Schedule 1 of the Regulations sets out the “essential retail outlets” while Schedule 2 sets out the “essential services”. The construction works earmarked as essential services reflect those outlined in the Public Health Measures above.

The Regulations remain in operation until Sunday 12 April 2020 which coincides with the end of the Current Lockdown Period. However, it is expected that Current Lockdown Period will be extended for a number of weeks which may result in the Minister extending the Regulations by way of further order. It is noted that the Minister has advised that the Regulations will be “reviewed in line with recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer and the National Public Health and Emergency Team”.

For ease, see link to the Regulations here.

 

[1] For source, please click here.

 

*Please note since this article was published, the Regulations were extended by the Minister for Health on 10 April 2020 and will remain in operation until midnight on 4 May 2020 to coincide with the extension of the “lockdown” period.

The Regulations may be extended by way of further order and will be “reviewed in line with recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer and the National Public Health Emergency Team”.

Please see link to the Regulations here.

**Please note that since this article was updated, the Regulations were extended further by the Minister for Health on 2 May 2020 and will remain in operation until 18 May 2020 to coincide with the latest extension of the “lockdown” period.

The Regulations also extended the radius in which you can exercise from your home from 2 kilometres to 5 kilometres. This amendment came into effect on 5 May 2020.

Please see link to the amendment to the Regulations here.

 

 


Author

Angelyn Rowan

PARTNER


Laura Mullen

SENIOR ASSOCIATE

Claire Wallace

ASSOCIATE

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