Home Office reveals new powers to tackle people flouting the coronavirus lockdown
- Up to two years in prison if you cough deliberately on someone after spate of attacks on police and emergency service workers
- People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and can be arrested as part of new enforcement powers announced by the Home Office.
- Officers can also tell them to go home, leave or disperse an area and ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking the law.
- Those who refuse to comply could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
- Second-time offenders could be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.
- Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose fines up to £1,000 or more;
Police warned the public to stay home or face arrest after ministers granted them unprecedented powers to enforce the coronavirus lockdown.
Boris Johnson has stressed that unless you are a key worker or helping someone vulnerable, the only reasons to go outside are to go shopping for essentials, exercise once a day or fulfil any medical needs.
Those flouting the rules face fines of up to £960, and police can now arrest anyone found outside without good reason.
In addition, the Director of Public Prosecutions yesterday warned that anyone deliberately coughing at 999 workers to spread coronavirus faces up to two years in jail.
Details about the sweeping new police powers emerged as checkpoints were set up on Britain’s roads by officers demanding to know where motorists were going.
In Cornwall, police threatened to search car boots to check whether drivers were off to the seaside, while elsewhere a force deployed drones to spy on dog walkers and ramblers.
A video posted online by Derbyshire Police shaming couples strolling in the Peak District was described as Orwellian by critics, with Silkie Carlo, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, warning: ‘Over-the-top policing will not help the country to fight this pandemic.’
Ian Hopkins of Greater Manchester Police warned that some were treating the crisis as a ‘holiday’, leaving supermarkets with trolleys ‘full of booze and charcoal’. He told the BBC: ‘What we don’t want to enforce is a state of martial law… I’m appealing to people to be very, very sensible and not put lives at risk.’
Under the new Health Protection Regulations, police can fine anyone caught outside their home without a good reason. The fixed penalty notice starts from £60, cut to £30 for prompt payment.
Repeat offenders could see this doubled, to a maximum of £960. Those who fail to pay could be hauled to court where magistrates can impose unlimited fines.
Officers from Police Scotland give a final warning to a member of the public to go home whilst on patrol on Perth’s High Street
A police stop point in Penzance where they are checking that drivers are on essential journeys on Wednesday afternoon
Drone footage posted by Derbyshire Police on Twitter of people being outside in the Peak District
Urinals are pictured with some blocked off in order for people to distance themselves at motorway services on the M20, near Maidstone in Kent
Members of the public observe social distancing while queuing for a supermarket in Brixton on Thursday
North Yorkshire Police begin vehicle checks to support ‘stay at home’ message to support the GovernmentÕs measures to protect the NHS and save lives during the Coronavirus outbreak
Police check vehicles in Plymouth today as they try and ensure people are only taking essential journeys in their cars
The head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Max Hill QC, warned that offenders coughing and spitting at key workers would be charged with common assault, punishable by up to two years in prison.
His intervention came after Darren Rafferty, 45, from Dagenham, east London, admitted three counts of assaulting an emergency worker after claiming to have coronavirus and deliberately coughing at officers arresting him for grievous bodily harm.
David Mott, 40, from Blackburn, was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison after threatening to spit at officers when they asked him why he was outdoors with two others on Monday night.
Derbyshire Police took the extraordinary step of using one of its drones to film dog walkers, ramblers and a group posing for Instagram pictures on a cliff top at sunset last night – highlighting their movements and accusing them of making an ‘unessential’ trip.
Using the unmanned aircraft they also gathered number plates from parked cars and traced their owners to their homes in Sheffield saying: ‘Walking your dog in the Peak District: Not essential.’
A Derbyshire Police spokesman said: ‘Travelling to remote areas of the #PeakDistrict for your exercise is not essential travel. PLEASE, #StayHomeSaveLives. Daily exercise should be taken locally to your home. Under government guidance all travel is limited to essential travel only’.
But some believe the force is going too far. One senior Tory MP told MailOnline: ‘Probably what will happen is a quiet word from the policing minister to the Chief Constable of Derbyshire saying: ‘can you ease off here, we don’t want to give you a haranguing, but we have got enough to worry about without you telling off people who are just taking their dog for a walk.’
The MP added the government was in a difficult position where looser advice saying people could be ‘reasonable’ would risk being exploited by ‘idiots’.
Experts have said the enforcement will divert officers from investigating other crimes, but forces including the Met insist it can form part of their usual patrol duties.
In other coronavirus developments on Thursday:
- Police were accused of an ‘over the top’ response to the UK’s coronavirus lockdown as it emerged they have set up road blocks to stop and quiz drivers on a whim and even chased dog walkers and ramblers with drones;
- One of the government’s top advisers said the UK’s epidemic will get worse before it gets better but could peak by Easter;
- Dyson has been handed an order of 10,000 ventilators from the Government – as long as the machines pass early tests;
- Retailer Boots begged people not to turn up demanding tests because it has yet to receive any;
- Royal aides tried to trace anyone Prince Charles has met in the last fortnight after he tested positive for the disease;
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a package of support for self-employed workers at this afternoon’s press conference.
- Thousands of Britons showed their appreciation for the NHS by clapping on masse at 8pm, this included members of the Royal Family
Derbyshire Police sent up their drone and filmed people on ‘not essential’ trips to the Peak District including people posing for an ‘Instagram snap’
The force says that people should not be heading to the Peak District to admire the sunset while Britain is in lockdown
Police in Devon have started to check whether drivers are on essential journeys or if they are flouting the government’s plea to stay at home
A police officer is pictured directing traffic at a checkpoint in Plymouth today. All non-essential travel has been banned by the government
Meanwhile Broadway Market in East London was packed with people this afternoon – with no police officer in sight
The apparent need for the new police powers to break up gatherings has been illustrated by reports of officers being called to friends having barbecues, house parties and games of football
A survey for ITV’s Peston programme found millions of people are not complying with the government’s lockdown measures
Police stop people on trains to check their journeys as coronavirus clampdown ramps up
Police patrols have been stopping train passengers for spotchecks in a bid to enforce the coronavirus lockdown.
Officers have been seen patrolling train stations in Swansea to check passengers should only be making ‘essential’ journeys.
Passengers at Swansea train station were asked for proof of their travel plans – and urged to take a single journey to their destination and home again.
Police are being given powers to issue £30 on-the-spot fines to those breaking the lockdown – and court appearances for non-payment.
South Wales Police declined to comment on the specifics of what officers were doing at Swansea station.
The force’s chief constable, Matt Jukes, has previously said: ‘South Wales Police has a track record of maintaining public order and safety in huge events and at times of emergency. We have always done so positively, with pride and professionalism.
‘So, we will continue to do what we do best – engage with people. We will ask them to support their communities and stick to these important restrictions.
‘As the public would expect, we will also enforce the existing law when this is necessary and new legal powers, as they come into effect.’
The drone surveillance and travel checks emerged as the Home Office revealed its new powers for police to enforce the coronavirus lockdown as a minority of Britons flouted the rules by holding house parties, community barbecues and other events of more than one person.
Officers will also have the powers force people to go home if they fail to listen to police direction, and will be fined £60 – reduced to £30 if paid within a fortnight. For second offences it will rise to £120 and will doubling each time for further offences. The worst culprits will be taken to court and face fines of £1,000 or more.
The use of travel checks sparked fierce criticism from civil liberties groups with police officers now seemingly being tasked with deciding how important someone’s journey is amid reports of dog walkers being told to go home after driving to a public space for exercise and of builders being stopped from driving to a job.
Nicola Sturgeon appeared to pre-empt the Home Office’s official announcement as she set out her plans for police in Scotland at lunchtime which will see people who refuse to adhere to the ban on groups ‘made to return home’.
It is not the first time the Scottish First Minister has acted before the UK government on a coronavirus issue after she did the same on banning large gatherings to ease pressure on emergency services and on school closures.
The apparent need for the new police powers to break up gatherings has been illustrated by reports of officers being called to friends having barbecues, house parties and games of football.
In other developments Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte have led hundreds of thousands of Britons in showing their appreciation for the NHS who are slaving away day and night to try to stem the number of deaths from the deadly coronavirus.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared a video on Instagram of the young Royals – six, one and four respectively – laughing and clapping together in a garden.
The post on Kensington Palace’s account read: ‘To all the doctors, nurses, carers, GPs, pharmacists, volunteers and other NHS staff working tirelessly to help those affected by #COVID19: thank you.’
Left: Mel and Cody, Harriet and Lara clap for the NHS. Right: Leanne, Indie and ivy also took to their doorstep with homemade signs
A huge message of thank you is broadcast from the iconic Wembley Stadium in London as people flocked to their doorways to clap NHS staff
Residents in a Northampton street applaud in support of the NHS in a tear-jerking show of national unity in the face of a growing crisis
The London Eye is pictured a stunning, vivid shade of blue as it was lit up in the capital to support the hardworking NHS staff
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak took a moment to step outside 10 Downing Street to lead the cheers
Barbara Leigh, 93, (second left) rings a bell for the NHS, with her family who are all staying together throughout the lockdown and are pictured in their front garden across the road from Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester
The Pollard family of Outline, near Huddersfield,West Yorkshire, give a minute’s applause for NHS workers on Thursday night
Nick and Karen Giddens and their dog Macy in Leicester join in a national applause for the NHS from their doorstep on Thursday night
NEW POLICE POWERS: WHEN DID THEY COME INTO FORCE AND WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
Police officers now have powers to enforce staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel, as of 1pm on Thursday.
As a result, people who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and could be arrested or fined. Officers can use ‘reasonable force, if necessary’.
What is the law called and where is it in force?
Known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, they are currently in force in England.
The regulations are expected to be introduced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales by the end of Thursday.
What are the main points of the rules?
Police can order members of the public to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group, using ‘reasonable force, if necessary’ and can make arrests if someone refuses to comply.
Those who ignore the tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days – and another for £120 for a second offence.
Those who do not pay could be taken to court and risk facing costs for unlimited fines.
Refusing to provide a name and address to avoid being given a fine is an arrestable offence.
Officers can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.
Why have the rules been enacted?
The Government says it is to protect the public and keep people safe.
The regulations state they are made ‘in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health’ posed by Covid-19 and the Government considers the ‘restrictions and requirements imposed by these regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve’.
But human rights campaigners have raised concerns about the restrictions posed by the powers.
How long will they be in force?
The regulations are classed as emergency laws.
They must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on April 16.
Why can I leave my house and how often?
Reasons for why someone may leave their house as well as to get food and medical supplies for you, your household or vulnerable people, are to get money and to exercise.
A reasonable excuse also includes: to give blood, attend a funeral, meet bail conditions, go to court and take part in legal proceedings, to move house and to ‘avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm’.
The rules do not appear to limit how many times per day someone can leave their house.
What else do the rules say?
The rules define who is considered a vulnerable person under the law as someone who is aged 70 or older, anyone aged under 70 who has an underlying health condition and anyone who is pregnant.
Underlying health conditions include: chronic long-term respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinson’s, diabetes, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy, HIV, Aids, cancer, and obesity.
It also lists in detail the businesses and buildings which can stay open – like supermarkets, hardware stores and post offices – and must close – such as pubs, restaurants and theatres – during the crisis.
The Queen, who is staying at Windsor Castle, added the country is ‘enormously thankful’ for the commitment of all those working in science, health and the emergency and public services.
People flocked to their doorways, balconies, gardens and windows to give a heartwarming round of applause and lit fireworks from 8pm as the country came together.
The London Eye, the Wembley Arch, the Royal Albert Hall, the Principality Stadium and Lincoln Cathedral were among the landmarks lit a vivid ‘NHS blue’ during the emotional salute.
The Clap For Carers campaign, which started online, has been staged because ‘during these unprecedented times they need to know we are grateful’, the organisers said.
It follows similar moves in Italy and Spain – which have the world’s highest death tolls – which created astonishing scenes earlier this month as they applauded from terraces in the countries’ cities.
Chief nursing officer of the NHS Ruth May said she appreciated the national salute planned to honour NHS workers.
Ms May said: ‘Nurses and midwives in our care staff are working around the clock. They are working so hard. And I have a very huge personal thank you to make to them.
She said she felt ‘very humble, very proud, and a clap for our carers will mean so much for all of our NHS staff and social care teams as well. Thank you. I appreciate it.’
A London-based intensive care nurse added to MailOnline: ‘It’s such a nice appreciation for the staff and we really are thank for it. We all really appreciate it.
‘Nurses don’t want to be heroes, we don’t want to be that, we just want people to not be sick and not have to come into us. We don’t see ourselves as heroes, this is just what we do on a daily basis.’
Clap For Carers is part of the #lightitblue campaign which has been organised by members of the events and entertainment industry as a way to say thank you.
Piers Morgan, Chris Moyles and Kate Garraway were among the celebrity presenters who said they backed the event.
It came as Britain’s growing coronavirus death toll today jumped to 578 after 113 more fatalities were confirmed across the home nations, making today the UK’s darkest day yet in the escalating outbreak.
Health officials also more than 2,100 new patients had tested positive for the life-threatening infection, meaning almost 12,000 cases of COVID-19 have now been recorded in Britain.
It comes after the UK yesterday posted 43 coronavirus deaths, sparking hope that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s unprecedented lockdown was working to control the ever-worsening crisis.
But officials changed the timings of how they counted deaths, with yesterday’s total only taking into account an eight-hour period. Today’s shocking figure represents a full 24-hour count.
The daily death count is not only a count from overnight – the toll can include fatalities hospitals have only just processed, for example patients whose post-mortems have just come back.
Government scientists have admitted there is likely to be 1,000 infected patients for every death recorded in Britain – suggesting the true toll is in the region of 600,000.
The latest statistics came as Rishi Sunak finally announced a coronavirus bailout for millions of self-employed workers as the Chancellor unveiled plans to hand them cash payments of up to £2,500 a month.
The package offers taxable grants of 80 per cent of average monthly profits, calculated over the last three years, and worth up to £2,500 a month.
However, those who have more than £50,000 in annual trading profits – amounting to 200,000 people – will not be eligible.
Another view shows Tower Bridge in central London lit up NHS blue as the Shard stands tall behind it on Thursday night
People pause in the street in Wapping Wharf, Bristol, to join in the incredible national applause for the NHS on Thursday night
Seven-year-old Alice Wilkinson joins her mother Anna outside their house in Manchester during the Clap For Our Carers
Officials have calculated from tax records that 3.8million will be entitled to the payouts, with the typical award likely to be £940 a month. The total costs are estimated at £3billion a month.
Even with the latest spending announcement by the Chancellor he warned the government will not be able to save every job and businesses.
‘Despite these extraordinary steps there will be challenging times ahead,’ he said during the now daily government press conference at 10 Downing Street.
‘We will not be able to protect every single job or save every single business.’
Mr Sunak said: ‘The scheme I have announced today is fair.
‘It is targeted at those who need it the most and crucially it is deliverable and it provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people.’
He said: ‘These last 10 days have shaken our country and economy as never before.
‘In the last two weeks we have put aside ideology and orthodoxy to mobilise the full power and resources of the British state.
‘We have done so in the pursuit of a single goal: To protect people’s health and economic security.
‘By supporting public services like our NHS, backing businesses and protecting people’s jobs and incomes.
‘What we have done will I believe stand as one of the most significant economic interventions at any point in the history of the British state and by any government anywhere in the world.’
Mr Sunak admitted the very recently self-employed will not be included in the scheme and must look for welfare support.
Coronavirus tracker app suggests more than six million people in UK could be infected
An app tracking people’s coronavirus symptoms in their own homes has revealed that more than 6.6million people in the UK could have had the infection already.
The COVID Symptom Tracker, created by scientists at King’s College London, was downloaded around 650,000 times in the first 24 hours after it launched on Tuesday.
By today it had been signed up to by 1.25million people and has become the third most popular download in the UK’s App Store, with some 50,000 new users per hour.
Analysis of the first 650,000 users found that 10 per cent of them have had the symptoms of the coronavirus, which causes fever, coughing and tiredness.
Health authorities in the UK aren’t testing anyone for the virus unless they’re in hospital so the app could be one of the clearest pictures of how many people are ill.
If its infection rate of one in every 10 people is applied to the UK’s population of 66million, that could mean 6.6m or more have already had the illness which has sent the world into hiding.
He said: ‘For those who are very recently self-employed, we cannot operate a scheme like this, there’s too much complexity both operationally and fraud risk with that, so we would have to say to those people please look at the extra support we’ve put into the welfare system to help you at this time.
‘But, as I’ve said, this covers the vast, vast majority of people.’
Treasury sources said 5.75million people fill in a self-assessment tax return.
Of those 1.7million earn less than half their income through self-employment.
A further 200,000 earn too much to be eligible for today’s package. The other 3.8million will be able to access the support.
Also, in a new poll conducted for ITV’s Peston programme suggested almost six million people across the UK are continuing to go about their daily lives as normal amid fears spring sunshine could tempt even more to flout the rules.
Mr Johnson’s lockdown means people should only leave their home for food, medicine, exercise or to go to work if it is ‘absolutely necessary’. Group gatherings of more than two people have also been banned.
But the survey found seven per cent of Britons are still going out to see friends, eight per cent are doing ‘non-essential shopping’ and five per cent are not washing their hands more than they normally would.
Meanwhile, six per cent of people – approximately three million – are continuing to hug others and shake hands, despite warnings this will increase the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus.
The government expects the ‘overwhelming majority’ of people to stick to the lockdown measures but it is bolstering police powers to ensure officers have the tools they need to enforce the rules amid concerns some people could continue to meet in groups.
North Yorkshire Police said its officers will now be stopping motorists to ask them where they are going, why they are going there, and reminding them of the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker, said: ‘The new and significant restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on Monday evening spell out very clearly what each and every one of us must do to save lives. The message is clear and the warning stark. Stay at home, save lives.
‘These are the lives of the people we know and love. Our partners, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents.
‘You may never be in such a position again where your simple actions will lead directly to saving lives.’
The force said the checkpoints will be unannounced and could appear anywhere any time with other constabularies expected to now follow suit.
Meanwhile, Avon and Somerset Police has apparently told people they are not allowed to drive anywhere to walk dogs or exercise due to the government’s ban on all non-essential travel.
Officers from the force were reportedly handing out leaflets to dog walkers stating that ‘the government restrictions currently in place do not permit you to use your vehicle to travel to this location to exercise’.
The document said government guidance stated people can exercise outside once a day and that ‘you should not be driving to a location away from home to carry this out’.
A Facebook user posted a picture of the leaflet and said: ‘I wasn’t aware that you couldn’t drive somewhere to walk dogs.
‘My husband was given this by police officers at Quarts Moor and told they hoped they wouldn’t see him up there again.’
The dog walker advice is likely to spark confusion given that many who drive to a location to walk their pet will not come into any contact with another person.
But the government is likely to argue that its ban on all but essential travel could not be clearer.
It came as Mr Cooke, speaking on his first day back at work after contracting the virus himself, said members of the public needed to be ‘sensible’ when it came to reporting gatherings of people.
Asked what people should do if they see a gathering of dozens of people, he told The Times: ‘We would expect people to call us … [but] would urge them to be sensible.
‘When you’ve got two or three people stood at the end of the road we don’t need to be told.
‘The great thing is we police by consent. Staff have been instructed to encourage people, convince people, interact with people. The use of the powers will be very much a last resort.’
Mr Cooke said 12 per cent of his staff were currently off sick or self-isolating – a figure likely to be replicated at other forces across the country, illustrating the resourcing challenge the lockdown could present.
Police broke up a house party in Coventry in the early hours of this morning where a dozen revellers were flouting the ban on social gatherings of more than two people. Eight of them were ‘removed’ and sent home.
That incident followed West Midlands Police neighbourhood officers having to disperse a crowd of 20 people who had gathered for a barbecue in the Foleshill area of the same city earlier this week on Tuesday.
Police have already started to adopt their own methods for dispersing groups with Manchester police reportedly using sirens and a loud hailer while officers in Leicester have been using drones.
West Midlands Police echoed a similar sentiment to Mr Cooke and said people should only ‘advise us if there are large scale breaches with large numbers of people congregating’.
Anthony Stansfeld, the police and crime commissioner in Thames Valley, reportedly said he did not think ‘snitching to the police’ was necessary. He said it should only take place in the ‘most extreme circumstances’.
Joggers go for a run at a park in London today in the morning sunshine as the Prime Minister warned Britons to stay at home
A lady runs through daffodils at Sefton Park in Liverpool after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a UK lockdown
People formed a queue outside a Morrisons supermarket in Canning Town, East London, first thing this morning
Government adviser says UK coronavirus epidemic could peak by Easter
One of the government’s top coronavirus advisors said the UK’s epidemic will get worse before it gets better but the peak of it could pass by Easter.
Professor Neil Ferguson added that around a third of people dying from the disease could be considered healthy.
But he believes the NHS will now be able to cope with the outbreak thanks to the nationwide lockdown that was put in place this week.
He told the BBC: ‘All I would say is, with the lockdown now in place, those numbers are going to start to plateau. The challenge we have is there’s a lag.
‘The people being admitted to hospital right now were infected a week, two weeks, even sometimes three weeks ago, so without doubt the next one [or] two weeks are going to be very difficult.’