COVID-19 – Essential Services & Emergency Powers For An Garda Siochana
Thu Apr 9 2020
The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 have now been signed into law by Minister Simon Harris– see the link here to the Regulations.
The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, signed the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) Regulations on 7 April 2020. These Regulations are made under section 31A of the Health Act 1947 (inserted by section 10 of the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 and their purpose is to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of COVID-19 – see link here to the Act.
The Regulations underpin the measures announced by the Taoiseach on 27 March 2020 requiring people to stay at home and not to gather in public. Minister Harris has said:
“While these regulations are necessary for enforcement reasons, I do acknowledge and thank the public who have been working with us on following the public health advice to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. The regulations come into effect on 8 April and will remain in operation until 12 April 2020. They will be reviewed in line with recommendations by the Chief Medical Officer and the National Public Health Emergency Team.”
What Do These Regulations Mean for Brokers?
These Regulations prohibit the movement of persons outside their places of residence without reasonable excuse, one of which is the provision, or assistance in the provision of, an essential service. Another reasonable excuse is the accessing of essential services, or the assisting of a vulnerable person to access essential services.
“Essential services” are those services specified in Schedule 2 of the Regulations, wherein section 10 sets out the category of ‘financial and legal activities’, which includes: (a) financial, insurance and banking services (including post offices and credit union services) provided by a financial services provider.
In communication to Brokers Ireland on 8 April 2020, the Department of Finance has confirmed that both insurers and Brokers fall under this category. Members may recall that in the list of essential services published on 29 March 2020, “insurance services necessary to support essential services and vulnerable people” were deemed to be essential. The Department of Finance has today confirmed to Brokers Ireland that it is the wording of the Regulation which applies i.e. insurance services including Brokers are essential services.
Some caution needs to be exercised to ensure that the Brokers do not unwittingly organise “events” that might fall under the Restrictions on Events in Regulation 5. Brokers should familiarise themselves with the Regulations in their entirety.
“Vulnerable person” is defined (see page 4 of the Regulations) as a person who normally needs assistance in carrying out his or her daily activities; or someone who requires such assistance as they are at particular risk due to COVID 19 related factors; or who is a child.
Certain Administrative and Support Activities, necessary to support essential services, are themselves deemed to be essential. These are listed at Schedule 2, Section 13. Your attention is drawn to the complete list, which may be relevant to your Brokerage, which includes such activities as:
• Payroll and payment services
• Data processing and website hosting
• Security activities
• Business support services
Brokers Ireland will continue to monitor the situation regarding essential services and, upon receipt of any further information, will update our membership accordingly. It is very possible that the Minister will announce that the Regulations will remain operative beyond 12 April 2020 as the COVID-19 situation remains and we will keep Members advised.
New Powers for An Garda Siochana to Enforce Regulations
The 2020 Act and the Regulations now in force grant An Garda Síochána the requisite powers to enforce the COVID-19 measures. They require persons to remain in their homes and prohibit events that could pose a risk of infection. The Minister may enact any other measures that the Minister considers necessary in order to assist in slowing the spread of the virus.
Any person who contravenes these provisions, obstructs, interferes with or impedes a relevant person in the course of exercising their power, or fails to provide the relevant person with required information or provides the relevant person with false or misleading information will be guilty of an offence and open to punitive measures.
Under the 2020 Act and Regulations, Gardaí will have the power to arrest without warrant any person whom they have reasonable cause to believe is committing or has committed an offence. Any person who is found to be guilty of committing an offence under this Act, will be liable to a class C fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both. The Act may be found here.
We at Brokers Ireland advise all of you, our Members, to take the necessary precautions for your employees and yourselves. All Brokers, whether employers or employees, who are carrying out:
• Essential services that cannot be carried out at home, travelling on their way to, or from, work should:
• Be in possession of an essential worker letter from their employer, detailing the essential work that cannot be carried out at home and identification
Failure to possess these may expose the Broker to the risk of being charged with an offence under the Act and Regulations mentioned above if they are not in a position to satisfy Gardai that they have a legitimate reason for leaving home.
Employers may be exposed to civil actions under section 43 of the main Act when damages arise to third parties or employees by reason of an employer’s (or anybody’s) failure to comply with the restrictions in the Act.
All employers should avoid putting themselves or their employees in a situation where an argument or dispute might arise as to whether a particular activity that was engaged in could or should be defined otherwise than as “financial and insurance services provided by a financial services provider”.
We need hardly restate that employees are to remain at home and not travel to and from work unless their attendance in the office is essential to allow essential services to be carried out- please refer to our earlier COVID 19 communications on these issues. As employer, you have an obligation to provide a safe place of work for your employees including not exposing them to the risk of COVID 19 infection.
Brokers Ireland welcome any queries which have not been answered in update above. For the efficiency of the collation of data, we ask that you directly email queries to the following contacts:• Life/Financial Services – email@example.com
• General – firstname.lastname@example.org
• Compliance/Central Bank – email@example.com
We wish you and your family a very Happy Easter and good health during this difficult period.