London, Sep 23 (PTI) Scotland Yard on Wednesday stepped up its enforcement strategy for the latest set of lockdown restrictions imposed by the government this week to try and control a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Metropolitan Police said that while its officers will continue to use the “4 Es” approach of Engagement, Explaining the regulations, Encouraging people to follow them and Enforcing as a last resort, they will not hesitate to use powers to deal with 'flagrant breaches' of the regulations.
The move follows further expansion of fines varying between 100 pounds up to 10,000 pounds for breaches of the COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings.
“It is clear that there is a renewed need for everyone to do everything they can to minimise the risk of transmission of what is a potentially deadly disease – that means everyone following the rules,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who is leading the Met Police’s response to the pandemic.
“Our officers will help people do that and will explain to the public what those regulations are, however, they will also be firm and take appropriate action against those that simply refuse to follow the law and who are deliberately placing communities at risk,” he said.
The Met Police highlighted its actions in clamping down on unlicensed music events, raves and parties throughout the past few months, despite “extreme hostility and even violence” in some cases.
Its latest warning comes a day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the House of Commons, and later the nation in a televised address from Downing Street, to declare that the deadly virus has started to spread again in an “exponential way” and tougher new measures will last for six months unless a significant shift takes place in the form of a vaccine discovery.
The UK PM admitted he remains 'spiritually reluctant' to infringe on people's freedoms, but unless tougher action is taken as a 'stitch in time saves nine' approach, the risk of a complete national lockdown looms large.
“So I set out a package of tougher measures in England – early closing for pubs, bars; table service only; closing businesses that are not COVID secure; expanding the use of face coverings, and new fines for those that fail to comply,” said Johnson.
“Once again asking office workers to work from home if they can while enforcing the rule of six indoors and outdoors – a tougher package of national measures combined with the potential for tougher local restrictions for areas already in lockdown,” he said.
Meanwhile, the devolved administrations of the UK also followed suit with similar tougher measures, with Scotland going further and banning all personal visits between different households barring a few exemptions such as for childcare reasons.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the government's strategy on Wednesday, saying there would always be the 'Goldilocks criticism – too much or too little”.
“We will get through this and we will get to Christmas not in a national lockdown,” he said.
The Opposition has broadly supported the latest set of tougher measures, which will see pubs, bars and restaurants shutting down early by 10 pm from Thursday. However, the Labour Party has accused the government of failing to have a robust test and trace system in place.
'The reality is losing control of testing is a major reason why the Prime Minister is losing control of this virus,' said Labour Leader Keir Starmer.
According to official figures, the number of coronavirus cases in the UK rose by another 4,926 on Tuesday, with deaths increasing by 37. PTI AK SCY SCY