Politicians will today vote on bringing in a string of emergency powers, in response to the outbreak of covid-19...But, if they’re approved, what will they mean for islanders over the next six months?
From extending the spending and borrowing powers of the Treasury, to getting Police involved in shutting down events deemed to risk public health, these initial emergency measures cover many different aspects of island life.
Due to be in place for at least six months – until the end of September this year – the measures which will be debated by the Assembly today are temporary powers intended to help the island’s response to the outbreak.
Pictured: The proposed draft laws will be debated by States Members today.
As States Members file into Fort Regent’s Gloucester Hall to debate the measures at a safe social distance, Express takes a closer look at what initial changes these emergency laws are making...
The first temporary change proposed is amending the Public Finances law to give the Treasury Minister Deputy Susie Pinel greater spending and borrowing powers as well as allowing her to draw more from reserves and making it easier for her to move money around between the various Government coffers.
Outlining the rationale for these changes, the proposition reads: “During this unprecedented period of uncertainty for the island, it is vital that the Minister for Treasury and Resources can make available sufficient funds to support islanders and businesses on a timely basis.”
Pictured: The proposals increase the Treasury Minister's spending and borrowing powers.
It also drastically raises the ceiling on financing and limits on loans – from £3million to £100million each.
Under this proposal, the Minister would report back to the Assembly after six months where she will make a decision about whether these emergency measures should continue.
The next two emergency proposals are designed to relax the rules around care providers – both newly established facilities to cope with the growing demand and existing providers.
For facilities, such as the creation of additional beds for vulnerable islanders in hotels or other lodgings, or any new adult day care service, the Government proposes to waive the need for these provisions to register with, or be regulated by, the Jersey Care Commission.
For existing care providers, one of the emergency laws proposes a relaxation of the requirements normally expected of them. This will allow them to more easily fill staffing gaps and increase the number of beds and care hours they offer.
Pictured: The emergency measures will be debated by States Members today.
It gives permission for care providers to employ “inexperienced, under-qualified staff” who will be “required to step in” should their more specialist staff be unable to work due to covid-19.
Provided that the care service has “done all they can to verify that workers in care settings are of good character”, the proposal also allows for staff to start work before their criminal record background check has been processed.
Elaborating on this point, the proposal reads: “In short, registered providers may need staff more quickly than DBS checks can be processed. In these cases, it would be unreasonable to penalise care providers, and it would be irresponsible to leave providers short-staffed.”
There are two proposals in respect of public events.
Pictured: The emergency measures also deal with public events.
The first allows for the Environment Minister to shut down any event he deems to be a risk to public health in the context of the virus outbreak. At the point at which the Minister serves a notice on the organiser to this effect, going ahead with this event becomes a criminal offence and the Police would be allowed to intervene.
The second allows for the Bailiff to withdraw permission for or add conditions to events already given the go-ahead for later on in the year.
The Government’s emergency package also includes measures to reduce the amount of people who have to appear in court.
Pictured: Changes to the law aim to keep the amount of people in court to a minimum.
Among these changes to the Criminal Procedures Law is the ability to let certain, vulnerable witnesses give evidence through a video call rather than in person.
A few changes to the way births, stillbirths and deaths are registered are proposed both to reduce the amount of face-to-face contact in line with the Government advice on social distancing, and to take any extra strain off the medical community.
It allows for family members or funeral directors to report the particulars of these events electronically and for a registrar to sign the appropriate register on the family’s behalf.
It also extends the window within which a doctor has to have visited a patient prior to their date of death in order to be entitled to fill in the person’s medical certificate of death.
Pictured: The emergency powers temporarily change how a death is registered.
Another proposal also reduces the required level of certification required authorising a body for cremation. In the possible case of someone having died from corona virus, the emergency power also removes the need for a second confirmation of death as is ordinarily required.
The major debate on all of these proposed measures will take place today.
Watch it live from 09:30 by clicking HERE.
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