Lockdown fines will rise to £100 in England from Wednesday as the Britihs government warned it was considering tougher enforcement measures for anyone flouting the rules.
People police believe are breaching restrictions on movement amid the coronavirus outbreak will have their first fine lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days, the UK Home Office said.
But fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
Existing legislation known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 will be updated from Wednesday to reflect the changes coming into force.
The news comes as a 50-page document published by the UK government setting out its Covid-19 recovery strategy for England said it was “examining more stringent enforcement measures for non-compliance, as it has seen in many other countries”.
Setting out limited changes to some lockdown rules from Wednesday in England, the paper said it would be imposing higher fines “to reflect the increased risk to others of breaking the rules as people are returning to work and school”.
The new guidance states people will be able to:
– Exercise outside as many times a day as they want – although a limit on the number of exercise sessions has never been enforced by law in England previously.
– Spend time outdoors, other than for exercise, as long as they are not meeting up with more than one person from outside their household while observing social distancing measure by keeping two metres (6ft) apart, and continuing to wash their hands regularly.
– Drive to outdoor open spaces “irrespective of distance” as long as they observe social distancing rules when there, and do not travel over borders to other parts of the UK where rules are different. Previously, the public were urged not to travel long distances to visit beaches, countryside and beauty spots.
Little other detail was provided on how stricter enforcement other than higher fines would be imposed.
No other specific examples of scenarios where members of the public would be considered to be flouting the rules, and therefore liable for fines, were provided in the document.
But it added: “The government will seek to make clearer to the public what is and is not allowed.”
The planned exit strategy depends “on continued widespread compliance”, the document said, adding: “Whilst much of the government’s strategy centres on reducing the costs of complying with the measures wherever possible, as the UK moves into the next phase, where the government will need to trust people to comply with more subtle social restrictions, the government will also need to ensure robust enforcement measures to deter and reduce the threat from the small minority who elect not to act responsibly.”
Admitting that as its request become more complex “the harder it is for people to comply with the measures”, the UK government has pledged to invest in public health education to make sure everyone understands the rules.
On Sunday, the body that represents rank-and-file police officers warned the British prime minister’s relaxed lockdown guidance still risks being a set of “loose rules that are left open to interpretation” and is difficult to implement.
John Apter, the national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “What we need from the prime minister and the Government now is clear and unambiguous messaging and guidance, explaining what exactly is expected of the public, so that my colleagues can do their level best to police it.
“If the message of what is expected of the public is not clear, then it will make the job of policing this legislation almost impossible.”
Previously the Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF), which represents police officers in London, criticised the government’s pandemic response as “wishy-washy” amid concerns that the public had begun ignoring lockdown restrictions.
Lockdown fines will remain unchanged in Scotland after the nation’s government said it found no evidence to suggest an increase was required because the number of fixed penalty notices there was “proportionately lower than in England”.
This means people found to be flouting lockdown rules for the first time in Scotland will still be fined £30 by police, rising to £60 if not paid within 28 days. Cumulative fines for repeat offenders will stay capped at £960.
Fines also remain unchanged in Wales – a £60 fine reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days, rising to £120 for a second and subsequent offences.
Northern Ireland is expected to set its own rules on Tuesday.