Coronavirus: Fines for refusing to wear face mask to increase to £3,200 as Boris Johnson announces new lockdown easing

Theatres and music venues to be allowed to hold socially distanced performances, bowling alleys and casinos can reopen, and spectators to be trialled at sports in latest loosening of restrictions

Samuel Osborne,Chris Baynes
Thursday 13 August 2020 23:29
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Coronavirus in numbers

People who repeatedly refuse to wear a face mask will be hit with increased fines of up to £3,200, Boris Johnson has said, as he announced England’s lockdown measures will be further eased from Saturday.

Organisers of illegal raves face £10,000 penalties under tougher new enforcement measures outlined alongside the latest loosening of the UK’s coronavirus restrictions.

Indoor theatre, music and other performing arts venues will be able to stage events with socially distanced audiences from 15 August, while spectators will return to sports in selected pilot events.

Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres will be allowed to open their doors again for the first time since March, and “close contact” beauty services such as facials, eyebrow threading and eyelash treatments can also resume.

Business conferences will be permitted to resume on 1 October following trial events. However, nightclubs are to remain shut and many music venues have said socially distanced gigs would not be economically viable.

The latest changes had been due to come into force at the start of August but were postponed by the prime minister as new infections climbed up across the country. The new rules will not apply in areas subject to local lockdown restrictions, such as Manchester, Blackburn and Bradford.

The prime minister said: ”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.”

He added: “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.”

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

But under the new measures, the penalty will double for each subsequent offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

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

The prime minister also said the organisers of illegal gatherings of more than 30 people could face a penalty of up to £10,000.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, 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.”

However, police leaders have previously said forces to do not have the resources to issue fines.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, said last month it would be “impossible” for officers to enforce mask legislation.

Police fined only 33 people for failing to wear a face covering on public transport in the first five weeks after they became mandatory on trains, tubes and buses from 15 June.

When the ban was extended to all shops on 24 July, Dame Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said calling the police over the failure to wear a mask “should be a last resort”.

New guidance announced by the government on Thursday means 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, the government said.

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