People caught repeatedly flouting the social-distancing rule will see the current £100 penalty double with each subsequent offence up to a maximum of £3,200. And organisers of illegal raves or unauthorised gatherings of more than 30 people could be hit with swingeing £10,000 fines. Boris Johnson last night ordered the toughening of COVID-19 penalty regime following concerns that a persistent minority are ignoring the rules drafted to curb fresh spikes in infections.
The Prime Minister’s action came alongside his decision to give the go-ahead to a further easing of lockdown restrictions in England that was postponed a fortnight ago.
Bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos and indoor play centres for children will be permitted to welcome back customers from Saturday.
Beauty salons, tattoo studios, spas, barbers will also be able to offer all close contact services and treatments including front of the face treatments such as eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments and facials.
And wedding receptions with up to 30 guests will now be able to go ahead.
Mr Johnson said: “Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus, but we must remain focused and we cannot be complacent. That is why we are strengthening the enforcement powers available to use against those who repeatedly flout the rules.
“At every stage, I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional and that it relies on continued progress against the virus.
“Today, we are able to announce some further changes which will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed.
“However, as I have always said, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required, or to continue to implement local measures to help to control the spread of the virus.”
Boris unveils new coronavirus crackdown
The green light for more businesses to reopen is the next step in the Government’s “Roadmap to Recovery” blueprint. It was cancelled a fortnight ago following data from the Office for National Statistics showing a rise in the infections in some parts of the country.
Officials say the increase has levelled off, easing concerns about fresh outbreaks.
But the Prime Minister is determined to toughen punishments for those still flouting the rules to ensure a balanced and disciplined emergence from lockdown.
Ministers are particularly concerned about a surge in reports of illegal raves and other mass gatherings of youngsters.
Police across England and Wales have already stepped up patrols to prevent illegal gatherings in several areas including Leicester and Greater Manchester.
Last weekend, West Midlands Police shut down 125 parties and raves and closed a pub.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Coronavirus remains a real and present threat to all of us and the majority of the British public are doing the right thing.
Coronavirus has killed thousands across the UK
“I will not stand by and see these sacrifices undermined by a small minority of senseless individuals.
“These measures send a clear message – if you don’t cooperate with the police and if you put our health at risk, action will follow.”
Police have also been stepping up action against people failing to wear face masks when required if they are not exempt for health or age reasons.
Transport for London and British Transport Police have spoken to more than 90,000 passengers about the issue, preventing 4,397 from boarding trains, underground trains and buses, ordering 3,030 of services and issuing 341 penalty notices.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We introduced mandatory face coverings on public transport to protect people and stop coronavirus spreading.
“I’m grateful to all those who have complied, and of course many people have legitimate reasons not to wear face coverings – but for those who aren’t exempt, there is no excuse.
“That’s why we must get tougher on repeat offenders. This new system will look to ensure everybody who is not exempt wears a face covering on public transport, continuing the public’s excellent efforts in helping this country recover.”
In other measures announced, indoor theatres, music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially-distanced audiences under updated performing arts guidance published by the Government.
Wedding receptions in the form of a sit-down meal in a COVID-secure location for up to 30 guests will be permitted.
Ministers are also allowing trials of sporting events with a small number of spectators. If successful, some stadiums and other venues could welcome back fans with strict social distancing in place from October 1.
Boris Johnson has announced stronger fines
The trials will begin with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre this weekend.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The nation’s hard work to keep the virus under control means we can now make further careful progress on recovery with allowing audiences back for indoor performances, fans back at sports events and the reopening of more COVID-19 secure leisure businesses.
“We must all continue to Stay Alert but today’s welcome news means these organisations can finally get going safely, and we can enjoy more of the things we love as a nation.
“I have no doubt that they will work incredibly hard to keep their fans, patrons, and customers safe.”
Business events and conferences will be permitted to resume from 1 October provided rates of infection remain at current levels.
The Government also announced that all staff working in close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians should wear a face mask (type 2 surgical) in addition to a clear visor.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “From Saturday, salons, spas and other close contact services across England will once again be able to offer all services in a way that is safe for workers and clients.
“I am pleased to give these often small, independent businesses a much-needed boost as we progress with our plan to kickstart the economy to protect jobs and incomes.
“Opening up the economy is conditional on our continued success at controlling the spread of coronavirus. Therefore it remains essential businesses comply with COVID-19 secure measures to protect workers and the public.”
Published at Thu, 13 Aug 2020 21:30:00 +0000