PRITI PATEL insisted last night that lockdown rules were ‘very simple and clear’ as police vowed to take tougher enforcement action against people breaching them.
The home secretary warned at a Downing Street briefing that a minority of the public had been ‘putting the health of the nation at risk by not following the rules’.
She said the ‘horrifying’ Covid death toll showed the need for people to obey.
When asked why the lockdown was not as strict as last spring’s, she insisted that measures were ‘tough enough’ and under ‘constant review’. ‘My message today to anyone refusing to do the right thing is simple,’ Ms Patel said.
‘If you do not play your part, our selfless police officers — who are out there risking their own lives every day to keep us safe — will enforce the regulations.
‘And I will back them to do so, to protect our NHS and to save lives.’
Another 1,243 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid, bringing the UK total to 81,960. And Martin Hewitt, National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman, told the briefing that officers would not ‘linger’ trying to encourage the public to obey lockdown rules.
He said: ‘We are now at the most dangerous stage of the pandemic. There is a real risk that our health service could be overwhelmed and people could die needlessly. The rules are clear and I urge everyone to abide by them.’
He gave examples of recent breaches including a boat party in Hertfordshire with more than 40 people who had paid £30 for tickets. A minibus of people from different households travelled from Cheltenham to Wales for a walk.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said London officers had issued more than 300 notices over 24 hours for ‘flagrant’ violations. She told the BBC: ‘Where somebody is breaking the law, and they know that they are, we will move very swiftly to enforcement and fining people.’
However, confusion remained over how far people can travel to exercise, as it emerged Boris Johnson went for a bike ride seven miles from Downing Street at the weekend. No.10 said the PM’s trip did not break restrictions.
But ministers were urged to clarify the ‘incredibly vague’ rules. Two women were previously incorrectly fined for driving five miles from their Derbyshire homes to meet for a walk.
There are calls for front-line police to be next in line for the vaccine after the highest priority groups.