Late on Wednesday the Government published further amendments to the regulations and order dealing with the Covid-19 epidemic. They are contained in two statutory instruments, both of which are available on the Veritas website:
- The Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 7) (SI 102 of 2020) and
- The Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No. 3) (SI 103 of 2020).
The effect of both the SIs is to allow businesses that opened this week a grace period of 14 days within which to get their staff tested for Covid-19. In more detail the SIs make the following changes to the existing law:
- Businesses (other than mines, tobacco auction floors and those in essential services) which re-open after being locked down have 14 days within which to get their staff, including management, screened and tested for Covid-19. The tests can be done using rapid results diagnostic tests or other tests approved by the Minister of Health and Child Care.
Note: mines and tobacco floors are covered by a previous amendment to the Lock-down Order. They were required to test their staff when they re-opened and, if they haven’t yet re-opened, will have to do so upon re-opening.
- For businesses that reopened on or before the 7th May (yesterday), the 14-day period begins on that date and will end on the 21st May. For businesses that reopen after the 7th May the 14-day period will run from the date of their reopening, but if asked by an enforcement officer why they have not completed their testing by the 21st May they will have to prove to the officer that they opened after the 7th.
- The results of the tests must be kept available for inspection for so long as the declaration of Covid-19 as a formidable epidemic disease remains in force (currently until the 1st January 2021).
- If permitted to do so by Ministerial order, an enforcement officer (a government or local authority health officer, a police officer or a member of the security forces) will be able to direct a business to conduct further tests on its staff at intervals of 30 working days or longer.
Note: Ministerial orders under this provision will be published in the Gazette or in any other way that the Minister considers appropriate.
- Businesses must ensure that all staff have their hands sanitised and their temperatures checked whenever they enter the workplace. Staff must maintain social distancing while in their workplaces.
- Anyone guilty of breaching the above provisions will be liable to a fine of up to $36 000 or to imprisonment for up to a year, or both.
- If a business cannot produce proof that it has tested its staff as required, an enforcement officer will have power to order the business to shut down within an hour and not reopen until the tests have been carried out.
- Enforcement officers can enter businesses during working hours and inspect them to ensure that testing is being or has been done in accordance with the law.
Reminder: enforcement officers are: police officers, government or local authority health officers, civil protection officers or members of the security forces.
These provisions will not come to an end when the lock-down is lifted, but will continue in force for as long as Covid-19 remains a formidable epidemic disease, i.e. until the 1st January 2021.
Consolidated Versions of SIs