Covid-19 response: New legal framework to be debated tomorrow ahead of Alert Level 2

A new law providing a legal framework for Covid-19 Alert Level 2 will be introduced and debated tomorrow.

The Government intends to pass the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill through all stages on Tuesday 12 May so that it can be enacted by Wednesday 13 May.

“As I announced on Friday, the changes will ensure controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable,” Attorney-General David Parker said today.

Enforceability to date has relied on the Epidemic Notice, the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

“There will be fewer restrictions under Alert Level 2 but those remaining still need to be enforceable. We don’t want these narrower controls to rely on a National State of Emergency.

“We believe the vast majority of New Zealanders want to ‘do the right thing’,” David Parker said.

“However, the regulatory backup provided by the new law allows us to address behaviour at Alert Level 2 that is particularly harmful to the public health objective, and to demonstrate to those who are complying voluntarily that non-compliance will not be tolerated,” he said.

“We need the legislation in place before Level 2 starts.

“The Government has assessed there is not time for the usual select committee process but we do want a necessarily brief opportunity for comment on the bill. Therefore we have released a disclosure draft of the Bill to the Opposition and experts, and have invited comment on it by 10am, Tuesday 12 May.

“I reiterate there has been no gap in the legal underpinning or in the enforcement powers under the notices that have been issued under Level 3 and Level 4. This bill does not retrospectively change them.”

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