Coronavirus: How new police powers will affect you and your family

A dummy COVID-19 swab is handled inside a sealed sterile tube during a demonstration by lab technici

A dummy COVID-19 swab is handled inside a sealed sterile tube during a demonstration by lab technicians who are carrying out diagnostic tests for coronavirus. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Police across Norfolk now have powers to enforce staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Those powers came into force at 1pm on Thursday (March 26) and come just days after prime minister Boris Johnson said new legislation would be brought into help police ensure the public complied with a lockdown imposed by the government to try and tackle the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

As a result, people who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and could be arrested or fined.

Earlier this week Norfolk’s chief constable Simon Bailey urged the public to abide by the lockdown as part of a bid to save lives and protect the NHS.

He said that it was a situation that was “absolutely unheard of” but insisted they had to work with people to make them understand that these measures were ultimately “for everyone’s benefit”.

Simon Bailey, chief constable at Norfolk police. Picture: Archant

Simon Bailey, chief constable at Norfolk police. Picture: Archant - Credit: Steve Adams

He added: “Just understand that this is not a virus attacking just the elderly and frail - and we’re seeing evidence of that - and let’s do our best to stop the NHS getting overwhelmed and let’s do our best to stop people dying.”

Mr Bailey warned if police needed to enforce new measures when introduced then “we will have to enforce them”, but said he just hoped that “people listen”.

As part of the new powers, officers can use “reasonable force, if necessary” - but here is what else you need to know about the new measures to protect people against the spread of coronavirus.

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• What is the law called and where is it in force?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the nation. Photo: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, they are currently in force in England and are expected to be introduced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales shortly.

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• What are the main points of the rules?

Police can order members of the public to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group, using “reasonable force, if necessary” and can make arrests if someone refuses to comply.

Those who ignore the tougher restrictions could be hit with a £60 fine initially - reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days - and another for £120 for a second offence.

Those who do not pay could be taken to court and risk facing costs for unlimited fines.

Refusing to provide a name and address to avoid being given a fine is an arrestable offence while officers can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.

• Why have the rules been enacted?

The government says it is to protect the public and keep people safe. The regulations state they are made “in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health” posed by Covid-19 and the government considers the “restrictions and requirements imposed by these regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve”. But human rights campaigners have raised concerns about the restrictions posed by the powers.

• How long will they be in force?

The regulations are classed as emergency laws and must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on April 16.

• Why can I leave my house and how often?

Reasons for why someone may leave their house include to get “basic necessities”, food and medical supplies for you, your household or vulnerable people, to get money, to travel for work or “voluntary or charitable services” and to exercise.

A reasonable excuse also includes: to give blood, attend a funeral, meet bail conditions, go to court and take part in legal proceedings, to move house and to “avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm”.

The rules do not appear to limit how many times per day someone can leave their house.

• What else do the rules say?

The rules define who is considered a vulnerable person under the law as someone who is aged 70 or older, anyone aged under 70 who has an underlying health condition and anyone who is pregnant.

Underlying health conditions include: chronic long-term respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinson’s, diabetes, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy, HIV, AIDS, cancer and obesity.

It also lists in detail the businesses and buildings which can stay open - like supermarkets, hardware stores and post offices - and those which must close, such as pubs, restaurants and theatres.

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