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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” or stay in the United Kingdom. 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:England and Wales operates a “traffic light system” for quarantine restrictions. People entering England must adhere to different rules depending on whether they have come from a ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ country.
  • 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 several public agencies. Some private businesses also have responsibilities.

Organisations and individuals enforcing coronavirus restrictions

Lockdown restrictions

Police

Local authorities

Face coverings

Transport operators

Business owners

Police

International travel quarantine

Comercial transport services

Civil Aviation Authority

Border force

Public Health England’s Isolation Assurance Service

NHS Test and Trace

Police

Self-isolation

NHS Test and Trace

Police

Employers

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 directions requiring people they suspect have broken the rules to disperse.
  • 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 people’s homes without permission to enforce coronavirus restrictions in certain circumstances.

Enforcement statistics

115,203 FPNs were issued in England and Wales under lockdown regulations between 27 March 2020 and the 16 May 2021.

Periods of national lockdown have seen a marked increase in the number of FPNs issued by police. There is evidence that the police issued more fines in the third national lockdown than the first and second. During the first national lockdown the police issued an average of 1,691 FPNs per week. During the third national lockdown they issued an average of 5,530 (more than three times the average in lockdown one).

The number of FPNs issued for other coronavirus restrictions/requirements has been small:

  • 3,678 FPNs have been issued under face coverings regulations between 15 June and 16 May 2021.
  • 666 FPNs were issued by police forces to those failing to follow international travel regulations up to 16 May 2021.
  • 165 FPNs were issued under self-isolation regulations.

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