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Coronavirus Regulations Amended (Again)

Gerald Gouriet QC

It would be unsettling if another week went by without an amendment to the Coronavirus Regulations.  Happily, yesterday gave us The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Medium, High and Very High) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, and the comforting reassurance that it is business as usual in the Department of Health.

As their name indicates, the latest regulations amend each of the earlier sets of regulations made in respect of each of the three ‘alert levels’ – ‘medium’, ‘high’ and ‘very high’.  The three stand-out changes are: (1) Nottinghamshire has moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3; (2) the supposed ‘loophole’ for social clubs has been closed; and (3) you may now be served alcohol with breakfast in tier 3.

The following is a summary of the principal changes.

‘Medium Alert Level’
I once asked for a small glass of orange juice in a diner in Los Angeles: the waitress replied “Large is the smallest we got”.  So it is with the alert levels: “medium” is the lowest they got, and I will take it first:

A workplace canteen may not serve alcohol between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00. The unamended wording of the previous regulations permitted the service of food and unspecified ‘drink’ between those hours. I don’t believe the amendment represents a change of mind: the lax wording of the previous regulations was probably an oversight.

‘High Alert Level’
A parallel amendment is made to the workplace canteen exemption, so as to prohibit the service of alcohol in a workplace canteen between the hours of 22:00 and 05:00.
Nottinghamshire and its borough, city and district councils are taken out of ‘Tier 2’.

‘Very High Alert Level’
A parallel amendment is made to the workplace canteen exemption, as above.
The definition of ‘alcohol’ (i.e. the meaning given in section 191 of the Licensing Act 2003) is applied to the whole of the regulations. Previously the definition only applied to Part 1 of Schedule 1.

The so-called ‘loophole’ which some thought permitted social clubs to escape the restrictions on the sale of alcohol (i.e. that it should be part of a table meal) has been closed. In paragraph 16 of Schedule 1, the word ‘provision’ has been substituted for ‘sale’, which means that social clubs may only serve alcohol as part of a table meal.
Interestingly, meals qualifying as table meals with which alcohol may be served now include ‘breakfast’.
Nottinghamshire and its borough, city and district councils now in ‘Tier 3’, with discreet ‘local’ requirements and exceptions being provided by Schedule 2A.

The full regulations can be found here: 29 October amendments.