Coronavirus: Confusion over whether live-apart couples can still meet up, as government sets £30 fine for people who break lockdown rules

Boris Johnson’s spokesman suggests lovers should not see each other if they live in separate homes – but then backtracks

Boris Johnson bans gatherings of more than two people

People who flout the near-lockdown will be fined £30 from Thursday, Downing Street says – with “significantly” higher penalties if they continue to disobey.

The figure was revealed amid confusion over whether live-apart girlfriends or boyfriends can continue to meet-up with their partners during the crackdown.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman appeared to indicate that lovers should not see each other if they live in separate homes, in order “to save lives”.

However, he then acknowledged confusion – even at the heart of government – given that the guidelines do allow two people to gather in public.

“We are working at pace and, as people raise these issues with us, we will get clarity for them as soon as possible,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the regulations allowing the police to punish people will be in place on Thursday, with fines to start at £30 – and with convictions for a failure to pay.

The spokesman declined to comment on a report that punishments could reach a whopping £1,000, but warned: “We will keep this under review and can increase it significantly if necessary in order to ensure public compliance.”

Asked how the lockdown would be enforced, he said: “As is usual the police will use their own discretion in their use of the powers and will do whatever is appropriate.”

The comments came as Downing Street also revealed there were 5,065 tests for coronavirus on Monday, far short of the daily figure of 10,000 it is aiming for this week.

However, the spokesman insisted there was encouraging news on ventilators, saying there were now more than 10,000 on the frontline, with “5000 coming online”.

He also suggested workers could not refuse their bosses’ instruction to come into work if they, and members of their household, were well and their job could not be done from home.

Asked whether the prime minister would be postponing his own “early summer” wedding, after nuptials were outlawed, the spokesman replied: “I don’t have anything for you in relation to dates.”

On the position facing girlfriends and boyfriends living apart and wanting to meet, the spokesman said: People should look at the guidelines and use their common sense in that regard.”

He then said: “The rules are clear in relation to when you are out of the house, you should only do so with members of your own household, or if it’s for work reasons,” – before promising clarification.

The spokesman also denied the government it had waited until Sunday to ask private sector firms and other institutions for support to boost testing capacity, insisting efforts had been going on for weeks.

“It's no secret that we are rapidly scaling up our efforts to boost testing capacity to protect the vulnerable, to support our NHS and to save lives,” he said.

“Together with Public Health England and the NHS we are exploring how we can work across industry and academic sectors to establish viable options which will significantly ramp up the number of tests we can carry out.”

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