Police will get stricter with its enforcement of the new UK-wide lockdown that became legally enforceable on Wednesday and have urged the public to fully comply with the rules, which call for people to stay at home except for limited reasons to be outdoors.
Scotland Yard said people in “obvious, wilful and serious” breach of the restrictions are increasingly likely to face fines or fixed penalty notices, which range between £200 and £10,000.
“In practice this will mean that all those attending parties, unlicensed music events or large illegal gatherings, can expect to be fined – not just the organisers of such events. Similarly, those not wearing masks where they should be and without good reason can expect to be fined – not reasoned with,” the Metropolitan Police said.
The public is being alerted that there are fewer “reasonable excuses” for people to be away from their home in the latest regulations, except for one form of daily exercise, for essential shopping or for medical reasons, and officers will get more “inquisitive” as to why they see someone out and about. The Met Police also warned protesters planning to gather in central London this week that it will not tolerate any breaches and enforcement action will be taken.
“After 10 months of this pandemic the number of people who are genuinely not aware of the restrictions and the reasons they are in place is vanishingly small,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Met’s response to the Covid pandemic.
“Our first duty as police officers is to preserve life. The critical situation our colleagues are facing and the way the new virus variant moves through communities, means we can no longer spend our time explaining or encouraging people to follow rules where they are wilfully and dangerously breaching,” he said.
A new digital fines system means it is quicker for police officers to issue fines on the spot. Since its launch last month, the said that more people have been reported for fines than in the rest of the year combined.
“I hope it is not necessary for this particular trend to carry on but if people continue to break the rules, putting themselves, their families and their communities at greater risk, our officers are ready to act robustly,” added DAC Twist.
The Police Federation of England and Wales also called on the public to do their part to keep each other safe as the new lockdown measures come into force amid a marked surge in infections, largely down to a new highly transmissible variant of coronavirus.
“With the new variant of the Covid-19 virus spreading so quickly it comes as no surprise that a new lockdown has been put in place. More people are contracting the virus and more are dying from it. Our hospitals are struggling to cope: these are tough times,” said John Apter, the National Chair of the Police Federation.
“It’s essential that people heed the new rules and stay at home unless absolutely necessary,” he said.
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), it is thought one in 50 people in private households in England had the virus last week – rising to one in 30 in London.
At a Downing Street news conference this week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had "no choice" but to impose the new lockdown, with the number of patients in hospitals 40 per cent higher than in the first peak of the pandemic last year.
Under the measures akin to the first lockdown in March 2020, people in England will only be able to go out for essential reasons, exercise outdoors will be allowed only once a day, and all restaurants and outdoor sports venues must close.
Covid vaccine deployment minister said new daily vaccination figures for the UK – which will be released for the first time from next Monday – will show there has been a "significant increase" in the number of people who have received the jabs.
The government has set the target to vaccinate all the over-70s, the most clinically vulnerable and frontline health and care workers by mid-February – around 13 million people – as the key route out of the lockdown.