Police officers will have the right to issue £60 on-the-spot fines for breaches of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown rules and will issue higher fines for subsequent offences.
The regulations, published by the Home Office on Thursday, are intended to give muscle to the government’s efforts to enforce social distancing between people in efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the UK.
Priti Patel, home secretary, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been clear that the public must stay at home to protect the National Health Service and save lives.
“All our frontline services are doing an incredible job to stop this terrible virus from spreading,” Ms Patel said. “That’s why I’m giving the police these new enforcement powers, to protect the public and keep people safe.”
The Home Office stressed that officers would initially use “common sense and discretion” in enforcing the rules. Officers are expected initially to ask people breaching the rules to return home and then to resort to stronger powers — including arrest for those refusing to comply — only when other methods have failed.
The £60 fine will be reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. Fines can be doubled for each subsequent offence.
Mr Johnson announced on Monday that he was ordering the closure of all non-essential shops, with people only allowed to leave home to buy essential supplies, take limited exercise or travel to jobs that could not be done remotely.
Enforcement of the lockdown measures in the UK has been less severe than in other European countries. In the new rules’ first few days, police officers have mostly enforced them with a relatively light touch. That approach was typified by a video posted on social media showing Metropolitan Police officers politely asking a group of sunbathers in Shepherds Bush, west London, to disperse.
The Home Office also unveiled new measures to boost police numbers. The civil service would ensure that members of its staff who volunteered as special — or volunteer — constables would be freed up to assist in the national effort “to the greatest extent possible”, the department said. Tax and pension rules would be relaxed, meanwhile, to remove disincentives to staying in work for officers who were nearing retirement.
The Home Office said the new regulations would apply only in England but rules that mirrored them would be introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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