Damning poll shows public wants pandemic strategy that protects rights

Posted on 04 Sep 2020

Polling shows three-quarters want human rights protected during crisis.

  • Public attitudes research adds pressure on Parliament to repeal Coronavirus Act
  • Policing, data collection and failure to protect marginalised among key concerns
  • Three-quarters want human rights protected during crisis

An overwhelming majority of the British public are concerned about key parts of the Government’s coronavirus response and want a strategy that protects human rights, Liberty research has found.

The research, conducted by nfpSynergy for Liberty, found:

  • 73 per cent are concerned about homeless people being fined during lockdown.
  • Almost three fifths (58 per cent) were concerned about the “heavy-handed” policing of lockdown.
  • More than three quarters (76 per cent) of respondents want their human rights protected during national crisis.
  • Two thirds (66 per cent) believe everyone should have access to state support during a pandemic – which contrasts with the Government’s response which cut off support for some people, even at the height of the outbreak.
  • Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) are concerned about Government data collection.
  • Less than two in five (38 per cent) trust the Government and private companies with their medical data.

As parliament returns this week, Liberty has renewed its call for the repeal of the Coronavirus Act and is releasing this research to show how unpopular details of the legislation are.

The Act runs to 329 pages and was rushed through Parliament in one day at the start of the pandemic, passing on 23 March. Thanks to cross-sector pressure, a clause was added to ensure that it would be reviewed within six months if it is to remain on the statute books.

It is one of the most dramatic reimagining of State powers in a generation, creating sweeping and radical new policing, border control and data collection powers. It also waters down fundamental human rights protections including for some of the most marginalised, such as people needing care or in mental health settings.

The human rights organisation’s public attitudes polling found that key concerns raised by Liberty and others are widely shared among the public, piling pressure on Parliament to repeal the Coronavirus Act and build a public health strategy that protects our rights.

Liberty is leading the campaign for Parliament to repeal the Coronavirus Act and is appealing to all parties to ensure this dangerous legislation is removed from the statute books.

Liberty Director Martha Spurrier said: “MPs have had six months to watch as the Coronavirus Act reimagined how the Government can control and criminalise us. It has had six months to watch some of our most marginalised communities get left behind, or actively targeted by blunt State powers.

“They weren’t the only ones watching – people in the UK have seen the Government’s response crash from one mistake to the next, and suffered as blunt coercive powers added to the anxiety we have all faced.

“We all want a new direction. It is time for Parliament to repeal the Coronavirus Act and create a strategy that protects our rights, as well as our health.”

Parliament, which returned from recess this week, has until 3 October to debate and decide whether the Coronavirus Act remains law.

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