Local authorities will be able to order the demolition of buildings at the center of coronavirus outbreaks under draconian powers to contain a potential second wave.
Cars, buses, trains and airplanes could also be destroyed subject to the approval of magistrates.
Boris Johnson remains determined to avoid a second nationwide lockdown and has given a broad range of powers to local councils to contain outbreaks as soon as they are detected.
Councils will be able to draw on six separate Acts of Parliament to impose lightning closures of public buildings, order mass testing, ban events or shut down whole sectors of the economy.
They will also be able to limit school openings to set year groups and restrict travel to key workers only.
The power to demolish buildings, however, is perhaps the most striking inclusion in the Government’s Covid-19 Contain Framework.
The document, published by the Department of Health and Social Care, advises councils that, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, they can apply to a magistrate “to impose restrictions or requirements to close contaminated premises; close public spaces in the area of the local authority; detain a conveyance or movable structure; disinfect or decontaminate premises; or order that a building, conveyance or structure be destroyed”.
It raises the possibility that care homes, factories, offices or even private homes could be bulldozed as a last resort if the virus starts to run out of control, although such measures have not been considered necessary during the outbreak.
Downing Street regards local or regional lockdowns as the way forward in containing coronavirus.
Councils have been given a list of all the laws they can use to restrict people’s movement and behaviour, including the Coronavirus Act 2020.
Among the range of powers set out in the Government’s advice to councils is the ability to “close certain businesses and venues (for example shops, cafes, gyms, recreation centres, offices, labs, warehouses); close outdoor public areas (for example parks, playgrounds, beaches, esplanades, outdoor swimming pools) and order deep-cleans of buildings or vehicles linked to outbreaks”.