The Government has announced new enforcement measures targeting the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions.
Fines for repeatedly not wearing face coverings where mandated will be significantly increased in the coming weeks, and on the spot fines for hosting or facilitating illegal gatherings of more than 30 people will be introduced.
The announcement comes as a number of remaining aspects of England’s culture, sport, leisure and business sectors will be permitted to reopen from this weekend. Two weeks ago the ONS had expressed concerns about a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive, but the Government says the situation now appears to have levelled off.
The plan set out in the ‘roadmap to recovery’ which was paused for two weeks will resume from Saturday 15 August in England – except for specific areas where local restrictions are in place.
Taking into account new evidence provided by SAGE and consultation with industry, the Government has also confirmed that all staff offering close contact services, including hairdressers, should now wear a face mask (type 2 surgical), in addition to a clear visor that covers the face. This will help protect the customer 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.
The Government will continue to review the measures announced, which are based upon the very latest infection rates, and advises that more detail on the new enforcement measures will be set out in the coming week.
Prime Minister Boris 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.”
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.
“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.”
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 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.”
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.”