As a last resort for preventing the spread of the disease, powers granted to local authorities – with the permission of a magistrate – could see anything from a car to a train destroyed.
The revelation comes as Boris Johnson remains determined to avoid a second nationwide lockdown at all costs, and has chosen to empower councils to properly enforce localised lockdowns.
In the recently published COVID-19 contain framework guide, local decision making related to the disease is placed in the hands of Directors of Public Health, supported by council chief executives.
The document makes reference to several pieces of legislation they can call upon, including the Health Protection Regulations 2020, which passed in July, which can force business premises to close and also restrict events.
Among the most powerful laws councils could take advantage of is the Public Health (Control of Disease Act) 1984, giving the power to destroy buildings.
The law says: ‘Local authorities can make an application to a Justice of the Peace in the Magistrates’ Court 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.’
This could mean factories or care homes which were the locations of super-spreading events could be destroyed as a last resort if councils do not believe they are safe environments.
The rest of the legislation stretches from the Food Safety Act 1990 to The Health Protection (Local Authority Powers) Regulations 2010.
On top of these powers, local authorities may also seek support from ministers to close or limit schools to set year groups attendance, to cancel or place restrictions on organised events or gatherings, or to close premises.