COVID-19: More fines expected for lockdown breaches as home secretary warns of tighter enforcement

“Strong enforcement” of coronavirus restrictions is needed to control the spread of the disease, the home secretary has warned.

Priti Patel said police forces should focus their resources on people who “are clearly breaking” lockdown rules to “safeguard our country’s recovery from this deadly virus”.

Government sources have told Sky News this will mean that “more fines will be issued, and quicker”.

As UK coronavirus deaths surpassed 80,000 after a fourth consecutive daily increase of more than 1,000, the home secretary said: “Enforcing these rules saves lives. It is as simple as that. Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.”

It comes as Sky News analysis shows that people are moving about more during this lockdown than the first, suggesting people have become used to bending the rules.

Ms Patel’s intervention is part of a coordinated government effort to improve public compliance and ensure further restrictions are not necessary.

It includes a major new public awareness campaign urging people to behave like they are infected with coronavirus.

Doctors have also pleaded with people to comply with the restrictions in the face of mounting pressure on hospitals, warning that staff are at their limits.

One leading medic has told Sky News the NHS was “breaking in front of us”, warning that hospitals may soon be too short of staff to keep their patients safe.

Dr Zudin Puthucheary, council member of the Intensive Care Society and a critical care consultant, said that he was “scared and angry” and urged people to stay at home.

However, police enforcement measures during the first week of England’s latest lockdown have also come under scrutiny after two women were fined £200 each for travelling separately to a Derbyshire beauty spot for a walk, about five miles from their homes.

Derbyshire Police has said it will review the fines and local MP Andrew Bridgen told Sky News: “It is important that police forces implement the rues correctly, otherwise that makes a mockery of the rules themselves.”

Elsewhere, the Metropolitan Police said it had fined the owners of a London gym £1,000 for breaching lockdown rules by remaining open.

Officers were called to the fitness centre on Stean Street in Hackney to find it open, with three people inside.

Norfolk Police said it had also issued a fine – to a man and a woman who drove more than 120 miles to look at a seal colony – while North Wales Police said its officers had dealt with people breaching coronavirus rules at Moel Famau in Flintshire.

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