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Various restrictions and requirements have been placed on individuals and businesses to help slow the spread of coronavirus in England and Wales:

  • Lockdown restrictions: Rules have been imposed which require people to “stay home” or “stay local”. Rules have prevented different types of gatherings. Some businesses have been required to close or operate under restrictions.
  • Face covering requirements: Most people are required to wear a face covering on public transport, in shops and businesses and in other public spaces.
  • International quarantine requirements: People arriving in England/ Wales from specific countries are required to quarantine for ten days on arrival.
  • Self-isolation requirements: People who have tested positive for coronavirus (or come into close contact with someone who has) are required to self-isolate.

Responsibility for enforcing coronavirus restrictions is shared between a number of public agencies. Some private individuals also have responsibilities.

Organisations and individuals enforcing coronavirus restrictions

Lockdown restrictions


Local authorities

Face coverings

Transport operators

Business owners


International travel quarantine

Border force

Public Health England’s Isolation Assurance Service



NHS Test and Trace



Police approach to coronavirus restrictions

The police have adopted a “four-phase approach” to policing coronavirus restrictions in which enforcement is “the last resort”:

  • Engage: officers speak to people and try to establish their “awareness and understanding of the situation”.
  • Explain: officers “try to education people” about the coronavirus risks.
  • Encourage: officers encourage people to “act reasonably”.
  • Enforce: officers may “as a last resort, remove a person to the place where they live, using reasonable force only if it is a necessary and proportionate means of ensuring compliance”.

Police powers

The police (and others if designated) have a range of new powers they can use to enforce coronavirus restriction regulations:

  • They can issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to those they suspect are breaking or have broken coronavirus rules. Those issued with an FPN under coronavirus regulations can pay a fine to avoid criminal proceedings.
  • They can also use “reasonable force if necessary” to enforce the regulations. This means they can use force to take people who break the rules back to their homes.
  • They can make an arrest (if necessary) and formally charge suspects with an offence.
  • Police in Wales can enter peoples homes without permission to enforce coronavirus restrictions in certain circumstances.

Enforcement statistics

32,329 FPNs were issued by police in England and Wales under lockdown regulations between 27 March 2020 and the 20 December 2020.

Police in England have issued more lockdown FPNs during national lockdowns. During the first national lockdown (between late-March and mid-June 2020) 15,626 FPNs were issued, an average of 1,421 per week. During the second national lockdown (November 2020) roughly 7,731 FPNs were issued by police. This is an average of 1,546 per week, a slightly higher weekly average than during the first lockdown.   

The police have issued few FPNs for other coronavirus restrictions/ requirements:

  • 958 FPNs have been issued under face coverings regulations between 15 June and 21 December.
  • 287 FPNs were issued by police forces to those failing to follow international quarantine rules up to 21 December.
  • Data is not yet available for enforcement of self-isolation.

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