POLICE have vowed to carry out the toughest crackdown yet on Covid rule-breakers as Boris Johnson warned the new lockdown could last until April.
Officers urged commuters to carry proof they are essential workers with them on journeys, and warned those who break the law are ‘increasingly likely’ to face fines of up to £10,000.
The threat came as the prime minister, whose new lockdown measures were overwhelmingly backed by MPs last night, urged everyone without ‘exceptional reasons’ to stay at home.
His plea came as the daily death toll surged to 1,041, the highest since April.
Hospital admissions for Covid also rose higher than during the first wave.
And a record high of 62,322 people reportedly tested positive for the virus yesterday, which Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer labelled the ‘darkest moment of the pandemic’.
Mr Johnson told MPs he would ‘continuously review’ lockdown rules but warned a mutant strain was ‘spreading with frightening ease and speed’.
He said he still planned to reopen schools after the February half-term but was ‘cautious about the timetable’.
And he warned: ‘Our emergence from lockdown will not be a big bang, it will be a gradual unwrapping. These powers continue to March 31, not because we expect the lockdown to last until then but to allow a steady, controlled, evidence-led move down the tiers.’
The new laws extend councils’ powers to control public gatherings until July, and police will be able to issue fixed penalty notices of £200 to first-time offenders — up from £60 in the first lockdown. ‘We can no longer spend our time explaining or encouraging people to follow rules they are wilfully and dangerously breaching,’ said the Met’s Dep Asst Comm Matt Twist. ‘After ten months of this pandemic the number of people not aware of the restrictions is vanishingly small.’
And Scotland Yard said those not wearing masks ‘can expect to be fined, not reasoned with’.
A new digital fines system has already allowed officers to hand out more penalties in a month than during the whole of last year, the Met added.
With one in 30 Londoners now said to be infected, officers stopped Tube commuters to check they were not breaking the rules.
A nurse called Lucy, who was stopped at London Bridge station on her way to work, welcomed the interventions, adding: ‘If it’s the law they should be enforcing it.’
Officers also arrested 21 protesters outside Parliament and seven supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at Westminster magistrates’ court.
West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said giving officers powers to force entry into homes of suspected law breakers would make ‘enforcing rules easier’.
The rules say to stay at home unless for…
■ Work — where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
■ Volunteering or charitable services
■ Essential shopping for yourself or others
■ Education and childcare
■ Visiting people in your support bubble
■ Exercise alone or with one other person once a day
■ Medical reasons
■ Domestic abuse
■ Visiting someone who is dying OR in a care home, hospice or hospital
■ Going to the vet
■ Going to church
■ Selling or renting a house