Michael McDowell: Coronavirus health regulations will have teeth

1947 Act allows for civil prosecution of those who fail to take precautions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: urgent measures are needed for pandemic .Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: urgent measures are needed for pandemic .Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

There is a strong case for strengthening the powers of the Government and its agencies to deal with Covid-19. The Health Act, 1947, was enacted to give sweeping powers to the government to deal with infectious diseases. But it needs an urgent review to deal with a pandemic in modern times.

As enacted, the 1947 Act, in section 31, allows for the making of far-reaching regulations for the control of infectious diseases which can be enforced by the Garda and breach of which is criminal. The regulations can require adult persons to remain in their homes and to keep their children with them there. Likewise mandatory inspections, testing and inoculation are provided for.

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