The government will place more police on the streets to hand out fines to “irresponsible” people breaking lockdown rules, the home secretary has announced.
In a stern warning to the nation, Priti Patel said: “If you do not play your part, our police officers who are out there, risking their own lives everyday to keep us safe, they will enforce the regulations, and I will back them to do so.”
“The sooner we enforce these rules, the sooner we drive this awful, atrocious disease out,” Patel said.
Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chief Council told a Downing Street press conference there were “still too many” people choosing not to follow the rules, adding: “At this critical time we will have more officers out on dedicated patrols to take action against the small few who are letting us all down”.
Hewitt said he would make “no apology” for the nearly 45,000 fixed penalty notices issued by police for “egregious breaches” of current lockdown rules.
“Organising parties or large gatherings is dangerous, selfish and totally irresponsible,” he added.
It comes after Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick this morning warned that tougher measures may be enforced if the public refused to comply with restrictions.
“Most people are doing the right thing to keep each other safe, but sadly a small minority of people continue to flagrantly ignore the rules, for example by holding house parties, meeting in basements to gamble or breaking into railway arches for unlicensed raves,” she said.
Writing in The Times today, Dick warned that anyone breaking the rules would find officers “moving much more quickly to enforcement action”.
She added that it was “preposterous” that anyone could be unaware of the need to follow lockdown rules at this stage of the pandemic.
But police earlier today called for clarity on England’s current lockdown rules following confusion over whether the Prime Minister’s seven-mile bicycle ride over the weekend was legal.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said that a bike ride of 70 miles would be “fine in some circumstances”, after Boris Johnson was spotted cycling near the Olympic Park in Stratford on Sunday.
That advice contradicted earlier comments made by health secretary Matt Hancock, who backed Derbyshire police at the weekend after officers fined two women who drove five miles from their home for a socially distanced walk.
The have since force withdrawn the fines, but Hancock yesterday warned the government “will not rule out” rolling out further restrictions if people continue to flour current lockdown rules.
Further measures could include a ban on allowing two members of different households to exercise together and tougher enforcement of social distancing requirements.
The health secretary also urged businesses to follow Morrisons’ lead and ban mask flouters, saying it was “the right approach”.
“I want to see all parts of society playing their part in this,” he added.