Coronavirus: Police get new powers to enforce protection

  • Published

Anyone continuing to break coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and faces arrest.

People ignoring tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially and another for £120 for a second offence.

New powers given to police in England mean no-one will be allowed to leave their home "without reasonable excuse".

The measures come into force on Thursday and will last six months, with a review every three weeks.

To ensure people stay at home and avoid non-essential travel, police will be able to order people to go home, leave an area or disperse.

The new powers mean officers can:

  • ensure parents are doing all they can to stop their children breaking the rules
  • issue a £60 fixed penalty, lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days
  • issue a £120 fixed penalty for second-time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence

Anyone who does not pay can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

If they still refuse to comply, police can arrest them.

However, the Home Office, in announcing the new rules, said that "in the first instance, the police will always apply their common sense and discretion."

Under strict measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week, people are only allowed to leave the house for specific reasons:

  • Shopping for "basic necessities", as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk or cycle
  • Medical reasons, to provide care, or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only if it is "absolutely necessary" and cannot be done from home

All of the measures will last for three weeks from 23 March before being reviewed.

Several new activities which are permitted have been added to a list outlined by the PM, including moving house, fulfilling legal obligations and to escape injury, illness or the risk of harm.

What do I need to know about the coronavirus?

In a separate development, anyone who coughs on key workers as a threat amid the coronavirus crisis will face serious criminal charges.

Thursday's warning from the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales comes after reports of essential workers being coughed at by people claiming to have the virus.

Two men in England have already been convicted - one of them jailed.