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New powers to tackle coronavirus mask refusers

Coronavirus | Published:

Under the new measures, the penalty will double for subsequent offences of not wearing a mask, up to a maximum of £3,200.

Coronavirus – Mon Aug 10, 2020

Fines for repeatedly refusing to wear a mask could soar to £3,200 and organisers of illegal raves could face a £10,000 penalty, Boris Johnson announced ahead of further easing of England’s lockdown.

At present, people who refuse to wear a face covering where it is required face a £100 fine, which can be reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.

Under the new measures, that penalty will double for subsequent offences, up to a maximum of £3,200.

In England face coverings are mandatory in settings including public transport, shops and museums, with some exemptions for children or on medical grounds.

A clampdown on illegal gatherings of more than 30 people could see those responsible hit with spot fines of up to £10,000, a No. 10 source indicated.

Police chiefs have promised increased patrols to prevent unlicensed events following a spate of parties during the heatwave.

Easing the lockdown in England.
(PA Graphics)

The tougher enforcement measures come as the Prime Minister confirmed plans to open up more of the economy from Saturday, potentially adding to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

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The moves were postponed from August 1 due to concerns about a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive but that now appears to have levelled off.

From August 15:

– Indoor theatre, music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences.

– The piloting of spectators at sporting events will resume, with a limited number of fans expected to be allowed to watch the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre over the weekend.

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– Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres will be allowed to reopen.

– “Close contact” beauty services such as facials, eyebrow threading and eyelash treatments will resume.

– Wedding receptions for up to 30 guests will be permitted.

– Pilots will take place at conference venues ahead of the expected resumption of business events from October 1 at the earliest.

The changes will not apply in the specific areas where local restrictions are in place.

The Prime Minister 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.

Boris Johnson visits Belfast
Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled tougher fines for people in England who refuse to wear face coverings (Brian Lawless/PA)

“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.”

New guidance will also mean that staff offering “close contact” services, including hairdressers, will now have to wear a face mask as well as a clear visor.

The move, which follows new evidence from the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) is aimed at protecting customers and staff from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing, or speaking.

The guidance also applies to businesses that operate remotely, such as massage therapists working in people’s homes, and those learning in vocational training environments.

More detail on the new enforcement measures will be set out in the coming week.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would not allow progress in tackling the virus to be 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.”

Home Secretary visit to Sussex
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would not allow ‘senseless individuals’ to undermine progress against coronavirus (Gareth Fuller/PA)

On BBC’s Today programme on Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied suggestions that the decisions to ease lockdown restrictions was taken primarily for economic rather than epidemiological reasons.

Mr Shapps had been asked about the comments of Professor John Edmunds, a member of Sage.

Professor Edmunds had said: “From a scientific point of view, I think we would probably conclude that it’s (the situation) not changed very much.

“And if you take other epidemiological indicators, they haven’t changed really very much over the last few weeks.

“I think you’d have to ask someone from the Government exactly why they took the decision.

“I don’t think it’s really been taken on epidemiological grounds, I think it’s really been taken primarily for economic reasons and there’s of course extremely good reasons for doing that.”

Asked if the decision was taken for economic reasons, Mr Shapps responded: “No, we’ve measured this based on what the Office for National Statistics say about it and they’d expressed concerns about a slight increase in England’s test positives.

“And you’ll recall that we put on hold the measures which, as you mention, are now coming into place. They’ve now suggested that that situation has levelled off.”

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