Coronavirus: British police vow tougher enforcement of restrictions

UK stores to insist on face coverings as 45,533 new cases and 1,243 deaths reported

British police have promised tougher enforcement of social distancing rules as supermarkets said they will refuse entry to anyone not wearing a face covering. Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said officers would no longer spend time explaining rules before issuing fines to offenders.

“Not wearing a face covering on a bus or a train is dangerous. It risks the lives of other travellers including those critical workers who must continue to use public transport to do their important work. So on those systems, unless you are exempt, you can expect a fine,” he said.

Mr Hewitt was speaking at a Downing Street press conference alongside home secretary Priti Patel as Britain reported 45,533 new coronavirus cases and 1,243 deaths. Ms Patel said a minority of people were putting the law-abiding majority at risk by ignoring lockdown rules that require people to stay at home except for a number of specific purposes.

"My message today to anyone refusing to do the right thing is simple: if you do not play your part our selfless police officers – who are out there risking their own lives every day to keep us safe – they will enforce the regulations. And I will back them to do so, to protect our NHS and to save lives," she said.



Department store John Lewis said it would halt click-and-collect services from its supermarket partner Waitrose amid speculation that the practice will soon be banned. Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrison's and Asda said they would no longer admit anyone not wearing a face covering unless they had a valid medical reason for not doing so.

“If a customer has forgotten their face covering, we will continue to offer them one free of charge – but should a customer refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason and be in any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so – our security colleagues will refuse their entry,” an Asda spokesperson said.

Surging hospitalisations

A Nightingale hospital in London's ExCel centre which closed last May after treating just 20 patients has reopened to help the National Health Service (NHS) cope with surging hospitalisations for coronavirus in the capital. Vin Diwakar, London's NHS medical director, said the hospital would be used to treat patients who are not suffering from coronavirus.

“This means that hospitals have more beds to care for Covid-19 patients and for our very sickest patients. We cannot do this indefinitely. There comes a point where if the infection gets further out of control, more and more patients from London will need to be transferred elsewhere,” he said.

The rise in hospitalisations comes as Britain's vaccination programme continues to outstrip those of its European neighbours. Some 165,000 people received a coronavirus vaccination on Monday, bringing the total so far to 2,431,648. Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised to offer a vaccination to everyone in the top four groups responsible for 88 per cent of coronavirus deaths by the middle of next month.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times