Emergency bill gives Border Force power to close ports
18 March 2020
The Government has announced that an emergency coronavirus bill to cope with the pandemic.
One of its provisions will enable Border Force to temporarily suspend operations at airports, ports or transport hubs if there are insufficient resources to maintain border security.
According to the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, the measures in the Coronavirus Bill are temporary, proportionate to the threat, will only be used when strictly necessary and will be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.
The Bill ‘enables the Home Secretary to request that port and airport operators temporarily close and suspend operations if Border Force staff shortages result in a real and significant threat to the UK’s border security. This is to ensure the UK can maintain adequate border security throughout the pandemic and protect the public from the threat of criminality or importation of prohibited items that could result from an inadequately controlled border. This would only be used in extremis, where necessary and proportionate, and any direction will be kept to the minimum period necessary to maintain the security of the UK border’.
Other measures include: allowing police and immigration officers to support and enforce public health measures, including powers to detain people and put them in appropriate isolation facilities if necessary to protect public health; and allowing small businesses to reclaim statutory sick pay payments from HMRC.