We now move from a light lockdown, to an enforced lockdown. Everyone is required to comply with the rules which have been put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, limit the death toll, and reduce the potential stress on the NHS.
Road blocks are being set up across the country to stop people travelling unnecessarily.
All Special Constables are being freed from other work to work solely as volunteer police officers. Some retired officers will be returning to the force. The private security sector is also in talks with the police to support the police in the enforcement of the lockdown.
How will the rules be enforced?
You are only allowed out of your home to:
- go to work if you are a keyworker
- do a weekly shop for yourself or a vulnerable/at risk person
- go for brief exercise close to your home
- attend to the medical needs of yourself or a vulnerable/at risk person
At first breach of the lockdown (without valid cause), police officers are expected to “persuade, cajole, negotiate and advise” the public to follow lockdown restrictions. However, this is strictly tactical and those who do not comply face stricter punishment. Officers have been told to use their own discretion.
New laws came into force on Thursday. These new laws gave police the power to “remove” a person to their home and fine people caught outside their homes with no valid purpose, or in groups of more than two.
The regulations, laid before Parliament, say that police can “use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise” of this power.
Officers will also have the power to “direct” parents to ensure that their children are taken and kept home. This means that if you defy the lockdown you can be forced to return to your home, and if you allow children to be outdoors unsupervised, the police can make parents enforce the lockdown.
People who refuse will face a fixed penalty of £60 if they refuse to go home or disperse. This fine can be reduced to £30 if the offender pays it within 14 days, much like parking fines.
If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be deemed to be acting unlawfully, and the police can arrest them “where deemed proportionate and necessary”.
The police will be keeping track of who they stop, and those who are caught in breach of the lockdown more than once will see their fine double each time they are caught. Once = £60, twice =£120, thrice = £240, up to £960.
The fines cannot be ignored. Failure to pay will be classed as a criminal offence and could lead to prosecution. Magistrates will have the power to issue unlimited fines to anyone facing criminal prosecution.
You can go for your weekly shop with 1 family member whom you live with. No more than 2 people may be together.
How long will it last?
The initial lockdown was announced as lasting 3 weeks. Whilst it is being constantly assessed, after 3 weeks a bigger evaluation of the effectiveness of the lockdown will occur before deciding whether to lighten or tighten it. The lockdown began on 23rd March and we are 1 week in. If the lockdown continues to be abused by a minority of people, it is likely that the measures will continue to intensify.
In his address to the nation, the prime minister said:
I can assure you that we will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows we are able to. But at present, there are just no easy options. The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.
Michael Gove said:
It’s not the case that the length of the lockdown is something that is absolutely fixed. It depends on all of our behaviour. If we follow the guidelines, we can deal more effectively with the spread of the disease.
It depending on all of our behaviour is the key part of this. The measures will not be effective if people don’t comply with them. If people defy the lockdown, and seek ways to find loopholes, or tell themselves that driving a long distance is fine if they don’t intend to see people, or tell their children that they can say they are “exercising”, then the lockdown will be extended and the rules tightened. If everyone does only as permitted then the measures may be effective enough to allow a lightening of the restrictions upon us. Everyone is learning as they go, and the government is constantly reassessing the national response against the behaviour of people.
Expert medical advice has suggested that the lockdown needs to last, in various forms of severity, for 6 months, to be effective, with social distancing required for up to 12 months. As the situation is constantly changing, we do not know if this is likely, or a worst case scenario.
It can get even stricter than this.
The Government has warned that stricter measures could be introduced if the UK does not abide by the new rules.
An escalated lockdown in other countries has included the following measures, some of which have been imposed for 2 months:
Not letting people in or out of cities.
Not letting people out of their homes except for food and medicine.
Having to wear a mask when collecting groceries or medicine (this is more commonly accepted as necessary in countries which have experienced epidemics in recent times. At present there are no pre-made masks available and the NHS is in short supply. The public should not attempt to buy masks needed by the NHS at this time, although handmade options are available.)
Private cars being banned from the roads.
Public transport being halted until the crisis is over.
Forcibly checking homes for infected people and forcing quarantine.
A ban on travelling between cities and municipals.
Being legally required to carry documents stating their reason for being outdoors.
Police officers constantly patrolling, checking documents. (The same law is in place in France.)
The arrest for attempted manslaughter of any infected person leaving their home.
Where allowed to exercise outdoors – getting fined if exercise is paused to take photos, or occurs in a park.
Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational and online retail is encouraged. Postal and delivery services are stated to be operating as normal, but delays and problems have been noted, possibly due to a decreased work force.
Retail and public premises remaining open are required to:
- Ensure a distance of two meters between customers, and also shop assistants
- Limit entry to the shop in small numbers, to ensure that the distance between people can be maintained
- Provide some form of external queue control.
Businesses Which Can Remain Open
Supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, laundrettes and dry cleaners, garages, car rentals, pet shops, cornershops, newsagents, post offices, and banks.
Cafes: only as a delivery service, premises may not open. This includes workplace canteens and those in hospitals, as well as services to the homeless.
Hotels, hostels, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses and Bed and Breakfasts: can only remain open with key staff for permanent residents or key workers.
Outdoor and indoor markets can remain open but only for essential items such as food.
Theatres may livestream performances with a small number of performances, if social distancing is observed.
Online businesses may remain open.
The emergency legislation recieved Royal Assent on 25th March, and is time limited in its powers, but the ability to activate the powers with the Act last until 2022.
It states that its main purposes are:
- increasing the available health and social care workforce – for example, by removing barriers to allow recently retired NHS staff and social workers to return to work (and in Scotland, in addition to retired people, allowing those who are on a career break or are social worker students to become temporary social workers)
- easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform, enabling local authorities to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations
- containing and slowing the virus – by reducing unnecessary social contacts, for example through powers over events and gatherings, and strengthening the quarantine powers of police and immigration officers
- managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services
- supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by supporting the food industry to maintain supplies
- Power to detain people and test them for coronavirus, force them to isolate if they test positive, and fine them £1,000 if they refuse
- Require supermarkets to give the Government information on whether there will be disruptions to their supply chains
- Allow employers to claim for the cost of statutory sick pay from the Government where an employee has coronavirus
- Give local authorities sweeping powers to order people such as crematorium managers to dispose of dead bodies in the event that death management becomes a problem
- Allow Government to close down any shop, bar, restaurant or club and stop people from entering them
Who are “key workers”?
Most workplaces are now closed, or moved to working from home. Some provisions have been made to fund many people’s wages and self-employed profits, and benefit requirements have been relaxed. Online work and trade is encouraged and the postal service is still delivering. This impacts a lot of workers, but the lockdown is restricting work so much that plumbers will only be able to come out to you for emergencies. You are not allowed to keep doing any work which involves you having to go into other people’s homes, with the exception of emergencies. Work travel is restricted to key workers, essential movement, and going to the post office.
Health and social care
Frontline health and social care staff – such as doctors, nurses, midwives, and paramedics.
Support and specialist staff in the health and social care sector.
Anyone working in supply chains, including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
Nursery staff, teaching staff and social workers, as the department said these workers are required to deliver their plans.
They are only key workers if they are still working in schools, delivering care and education to the children of other key workers. Any teachers and university staff not fulfilling that role are not key workers.
Key public services
Anyone “required” to run the justice system.
Religious staff, although churches are ordered closed.
All those responsible for managing the deceased – funeral homes.
Local and national government
Only “administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services”, including dealing with benefits.
Food and other necessary goods
Those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food.
Public safety and national security
Fire and Rescue
Ministry of Defence – civilian and armed forces
Those who keep “air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response”.
Utilities, communication and financial services
Staff required to keep oil, gas, electricity, water and sewerage operations running.
Those who work in the civil nuclear, chemical and telecommunications sectors.
Those working for postal and delivery services (not private deliveries)
Essential financial services.
Who is Classed as Extremely Vulnerable?
Everyone classified as “extremely vulnerable” should have either received, or will soon receive, a letter telling them to self-isolate for 12 weeks (3 months) until 15th June. Approximately 1.5 million people will be sent these letters.
Self-isolation involves not leaving one’s home and garden for any reason other than going to hospital.
If you are self-isolating, you must:
- not leave your home for any reason, except to use your garden (if you have one)
- not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home
- not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
- not use public transport, or drive anywhere
- not go to work, school, or any public areas where other people may be
Those who are classified as “Extremely Vulnerable” (in order of risk):
- People aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
- People under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below
- Those who are pregnant (this was added because of unknown factors, not because there is a known risk)
If you have one of these conditions – you are considered “Extremely Vulnerable” to Covid-19
- Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- Chronic neurological conditions, eg. Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy
- Spleen related issues: eg. sickle cell disease, removed spleen
- A weakened immune system, including HIV and AIDS patients, and those taking medicines which affect the immune system, such as steroid tablets, some heart medications, and chemotherapy
- Being seriously overweight
This does not cover everyone who might be at a higher risk from Coronavirus. These are the MOST at risk.
You may no longer visit relatives in care homes. Many care homes have closed to visitors anyway to comply with earlier advice to protect the over-70s.
Criminal trials which will take longer than 3 days are postponed for at least a month.
Prisons in England and Wales are also instructed to go into lockdown.
Family and friends are banned from visitation for the duration of the lockdown.
Inmates will be confined to cells for 23 hours a day and only allowed out to shower, use pay phones and to exercise.
The 2 metre space between people will have to be observed. Prison staff will communicate with prisoners via notes under cell doors.
Photo: Arkashis Das / CC BY-SA