The number of fines handed out to people in England and Wales for breaching coronavirus restrictions has surged as police forces take on a hardline approach in the fight against the pandemic.
Almost 69,000 fixed penalty notices were issued by police in England and Wales between March 27 last year and Feb. 14th this year, according to data collected by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
Up to 40% of all COVID-19 fines handed out by police since the start of the pandemic in England were issued from mid-January to mid-February this year.
“The rules are clear enough and have been around for long enough now there’s no excuse for people not to understand them,” said Martin Hewitt, chairman of the NPCC.
“We would still do a bit of explaining, but once we had encouraged people to do what they needed to do, if they did not do that, we would go much more quickly to issuing a fixed penalty notice. So there’s something about our stance,” Hewitt added.
The NPCC data showed that in England a penalty of £10,000 ($14,000) has been issued to 272 organizers of illegal mass gatherings which include demonstrations, parties and festivals. In Wales, 485 people have been fined £800 ($1,124) each for congregating in gatherings of more than 15.
The government has introduced strict rules as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the virus as well as its variants. These include a mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers entering the UK from 33 “red list” countries. Those found breaching these rules face a 10-year jail term as well as a £10,000 fine.
On Thursday, 9,985 people had a confirmed positive test of the virus and some 71,320 people tested positive between Feb. 19 and 25. This represents a 15.7% decrease in comparison to the last seven days.
A total of 313 deaths were reported within 28 days of testing positive for the virus on Thursday. As many as 2,684 people had succumbed to the virus between Feb. 19-25. This shows a 30.4% decrease in comparison to the previous week.
By the end of Feb. 24, almost 18.7 million people had been administered their first doses of the vaccine with over 700,000 people receiving the second. Vaccines are currently administered in two doses 21 days apart.
The latest R range for the UK stands at 0.6-0.9, with the current growth rate at -6% to -3% per day. The R number is a mechanism used to rate the virus’s ability to spread, with R being the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.