More stringent lockdown restrictions are being introduced across the UK, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opting to introduce tougher rules than in England.
Ms Sturgeon warned that the country is currently “at a tipping point with Covid” and if measures are not taken now, the virus could spiral out of control again. The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has now surpassed 400,000, with almost 5,000 additional lab cases confirmed on Tuesday 22 September and a further 37 deaths.
In response to the rising infection rates, measures are to be made stricter across all four nations this week, including harsher penalties for breaking the rules.
Here’s everything you need to know about the changes.
What are the fines for breaking the rules?
Police and other relevant authorities have the power to enforce the law where people do not comply with the rules.
If you gather in public in a group that exceeds six people, or people from more than two households, attend a party that breaches the restrictions, or do not comply with the rules on face coverings on public transport or in indoor public spaces, the police may:
- instruct you to leave an area or disperse
- instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules if they have already done so
- take you home, or arrest you, if you do not follow their instructions or where they deem it necessary
If you attend a social gathering in a private home where 16 or more people are present from more than one household, and this is not for specific permitted purposes such as work, the police have the power to enter that property to enforce the restrictions in these regulations.
This power can only be used if the police have first requested that the unlawful action stop and this request has not been complied with.
However, if they believe you have broken these rules and you are 18 or over, or you refuse to follow their instructions, a police officer may issue a fixed penalty notice for £60. This will be reduced to £30 if it is paid within 28 days.
If a person has already received a fixed penalty notice, the amount will increase to £120 and double on each further repeat offence up to a maximum of £960.
Businesses and venues that breach the regulations will also be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially fixed penalties.
For both individuals and companies, if you refuse to pay a fixed penalty, or the police consider it necessary, you may also be taken to court and face the statutory maximum level fine of £10,000.
These measures are to remain in force for a further six months.
What are the new rules?
A number of new regulations are to come into force in Scotland on Friday 25 September, but people are being asked to comply with these from Wednesday 23 September.
Under the new rules, household mixing indoors will no longer be allowed, with exemptions for those living alone, couples who do not live together, childcare and tradespeople.
Children under the age of 12 will be exempt from the current limit of six people from two households when meeting outside, while those between 12 and 18 will be able to meet a limit of six others from six households outdoors.
From Friday 25 September, pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm. Ms Sturgeon warned that further restrictions, including possible closures, will be “unavoidable” if social distancing and other measures are not followed.
People are being advised against car-sharing, as there is a “significant risk of transmission” according to Test and Protect data.
Ms Sturgeon has also asked people not to book any overseas travel for the half-term break unless it is essential, and to use it as an opportunity to “further limit social interaction.”
Additionally, everyone who can work from home should continue to do so where possible.