The ease of COVID sees the removal of the Epidemic Notice

Written by Tayla Westman

In March 2020 the Prime Minister issued the Epidemic Notice (“EN”) under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was designed to allow Government “special powers” in legislation for it to respond swiftly in a rapidly evolving situation. The EN has been in force since that date, and in October 2022 it was announced that the EN would expire on 20 October 2022.

For many, the EN may have impacted their legal affairs over the past two years without them even noticing. Many of the changes it imposed were swiftly incorporated into legislation, and therefore, what may appear to be the norm may have actually been the temporary effects of the EN in practice.

One common example is how we signed and witnessed documents during the pandemic. The EN encouraged signing many types of legal documents via virtual meeting. Signing and witnessing Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney or in some circumstances, affidavits, were permitted by video call as a practical response to isolation. Now that the EN has expired, the law has returned to its ordinary rules, which requires signatories and witnesses to be present when executing documents of this kind.

Like a domino-effect, the way in which in the EN has impacted various other areas of law, such as COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, is still unclear. We continue to keep updated on the relationship between the EN and our laws, keeping an eye on how what we have come to consider ordinary practice over the last two years has actually been temporary adjustments to accommodate the pandemic.

We recommend keeping an eye on how the law reverts to its ordinary practice over the coming months, and look forward to updating you as we receive more information. Should you have any hesitations about how the expiry of the EN may affect you and your affairs, contact one of our team for a chat.