People attending gatherings in groups of 15 or more during lockdown will each be slapped with a new £800 fine, the home secretary has announced.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Priti Patel said: “My message is clear, if you don’t follow the rules, the police will enforce them. Police officers are now moving more quickly to handing out fines when they encounter breaches, and they have my absolute backing.”
Fines for those attending house parties and large events will start at £800 from next week, doubling for each repeat offence to a maximum of £6,400.
“The science is clear. Such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to the public attending them but also to our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down,” Patel said.
Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chief Council, added that the new measures would help crack down on a minority of people “selfishly putting everyone at risk”.
The police chief slammed a gathering of more than 40 people “cramped indoors” in Brick Lane in London last week, which resulted in three police officers being injured, as well as an 150-strong party in Hertfordshire.
“I make no apologised for those fines,” Hewitt said, adding that house parties were “putting lives at risk”.
The NPCC chair insisted that “personal decisions” remained critical as the UK enters a “dangerous” period in the pandemic.
It comes after the UK reported a further 1,290 Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours, marking a significant drop on yesterday’s all-time record of 1,820.
Dr Vin Dwarkha, medical director of the NHS in London, said the health service was beginning to feel some “glimmers of the impact” of current lockdown restrictions.
However, he warned that a drop in coronavirus figures “has not fed through to intensive care”, with hospitalisations still on the rise.
Admissions to intensive care remain highest in the capital, with the number of Covid patients in London hospitals around 50 per cent higher than in the first wave.
It emerged this morning that two London buses have been converted into temporary ambulances to alleviate the pressure of Covid-19 on the NHS across the capital. Although not exclusively for Covid patients, the buses will have oxygen onboard to provide to Covid patients who need it.
The Prime Minister today said it was “too early to say” whether current restrictions could be relaxed as planned in the spring, or creep on into the summer months.
Boris Johnson said it was “absolutely crucial” to obey the current lockdown rules “in what is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks ahead”. However, he clung on to hopes that the vaccine may prove the light at the end of the tunnel.
Health secretary Matt Hancock this morning announced that the NHS is currently vaccinating at a rate of 200 jabs each minute, with more than 5m doses already handed out.