COVID rule-breakers face a blitz amid fears Brits are flouting the laws.
Supermarkets will see fresh checks on safety policies and possible fines after scientists blamed a lack of social distancing in stores for the rapid spread of the super-infectious new strain.
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Shoppers could see longer queues as fresh checks are carried out in a bid to enforce social-distancing Credit: EPA
No 10 is already pessimistic about the prospect of easing restrictions by the end of next month and has pencilled in March 23 — the one-year anniversary of the start of the first lockdown — as the end date.
Boris Johnson met with ministers, public health officials and scientists in his Covid Operations committee yesterday to plan on how best to crack down on rapidly rising case rates. Under the current, tougher lockdown rules, cops can fine flouters £200 for a first offence.
Local authorities will be tasked with carrying out more spot-checks to ensure supermarkets and workplaces allowed to open are operating one-way systems.
Shops will also have to show they are capping the number of customers permitted through the doors at any one time — likely to increase queuing outdoors.
A government source told The Sun: “Last year, these businesses were very good at being Covid-secure. This isn’t happening now because supermarkets are very busy and it’s a real concern. We need to ensure everywhere that is open is secure.”
It came as people flocked to beauty spots yesterday despite pleas to stay at home. Scores strolled along busy Tynemouth Longsands beach in North Tyneside while others crammed together outside food stalls and cafes in town and city centres.
One woman, said by cops to be a protester, was led away in handcuffs “for sitting on a bench” at Bournemouth seaside. Nearby, four officers quizzed another for allegedly leaving her home more than once in the same day.
PM Boris Johnson met with officials to crack down on rapidly rising case rates Credit: Getty – Pool
Shops will have to cap the number of shoppers permitted through their doors at any one timeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Scientists blame a lack of social distancing in stores for the rapid spread of the new strainCredit: EPA
Brits descended on Tynemouth Longsands beach in North Tyneside to go on a strollCredit: North News and Pictures
A woman ‘sitting on a bench’ was arrested in Bournemouth
Elsewhere, 13 men were each fined £200 after they were caught playing cards in a police raid on a club in Stoke Newington, in North London.
Earlier this week, two women in Derbyshire were fined £200 each after driving five miles for a socially distanced walk. Met Police chiefs have also launched a probe after officers were photographed apparently flouting lockdown rules by eating breakfast together in a cafe.
There was a chorus of calls yesterday backing the enforcement of existing measures — and for toughening them further. It came as figures revealed a further 563 Covid deaths — the highest Sunday toll in eight months — alongside another 54,940 confirmed positive.
Susan Michie, Professor of health psychology at University College London, said the Government had no choice but “to get right back to where we were in March, unfortunately”.
Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said: “We have seen in the past that very strict measures do work and if the current measures aren’t enough then that’s clearly what we have to do.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out imposing stricter rules as he urged the public to stick to the current ones. He said: “These rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit to what people should be doing.
“The police are right to take very seriously the rules. We haven’t brought them in because we wanted to, we’ve brought them in because we had to. Every flexibility can be fatal.”
Under the current lockdown rules, cops can fine flouters £200 for a first offenceCredit: EPA
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ‘every flexibility can be fatal’Credit: PA:Press Association
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for the closure of nursery schoolsCredit: Rex Features
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for further measures, including the closure of nursery schools.
A government source said: “Everyone knows the measures are tough. They are akin to those we had last March.
“Now we need everyone to behave in the same way for them to work. We’re looking at what more can be done to make sure enforcement is really tough both for individuals who are clearly breaking the rules and making sure police have strong plans in place to enforce these rules, which are really simple.”
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