Commuters were pictured travelling through London during rush hour this morning without wearing face masks hours after the Home Secretary backed a tougher police approach to lockdown rules.
Priti Patel said a minority of the public are ‘putting the health of the nation at risk’, adding that officers are moving more quickly to issuing fines where people are clearly breaching coronavirus regulations.
Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption, such as it causing them severe distress or because of a physical or mental illness, impairment or disability – and they do not have to carry proof of this.
But concerns are mounting that others are simply breaking the law because they don’t want to wear one – and Ms Patel revealed yesterday that nearly 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the UK since March.
National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt warned those caught not wearing a mask on a bus or train ‘can expect a fine’ unless they are exempt – and police would no longer ‘waste time’ trying to reason with people.
He said last night: ‘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.’
A string of supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have now pledged to get tougher with customers who refuse to wear face coverings by denying them entry to their stores.
Some commuters don’t wear face masks on the Jubilee line in London today. It is not known whether they have an exemption
Two passengers sit on a London Overground train today while not wearing face masks. Some passengers have an exemption
A commuter on a Jubilee line train this morning. Some people don’t have to wear a mask if they have a valid exemption
One woman sits on a London Overground train today with a mask pulled down. It is not known if the other woman is exempt
Commuters wearing face masks wait for an Overground train this morning at Canada Water station in East London
A woman goes to board a London Overground train this morning as the third lockdown continues for England
A London commuter is pictured not wearing a face mask on the Jubilee line today. It is not known if he has an exemption
A busy Circle or District line train on the London Underground this morning while stopped at Victoria station
Morning traffic coming into London over the Marylebone flyover in London today during England’s third national lockdown
Britain’s most senior police officer, Dame Cressida Dick, said her Metropolitan Police officers would be prepared to assist shop staff if customers became ‘obstructive and aggressive’ when told they must wear a face covering.
Speaking about enforcement, Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh told talkRADIO this morning: ‘There are areas that are difficult for us. For instance, the wearing of masks and the people with exemption.
Speaker advises MPs to wear masks ‘wherever possible’ in the Commons
MPs have been advised to wear face masks ‘wherever possible’ in the House of Commons chamber.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle suggested the exception should be when MPs are called to speak.
People on the parliamentary estate have been encouraged to wear masks in recent months, although the Speaker’s words go a step further in pressing MPs to wear a face covering in the chamber.
The number of MPs on the floor of the House has been limited to 50 during the Covid-19 pandemic, with others contributing virtually via Zoom.
Opening business, Sir Lindsay told the Commons: ‘Can I just say to members, wherever possible please try and wear masks all the time, apart from obviously when we’re speaking. So please bear that in mind.’
Most MPs could be seen wearing masks during housing, communities and local government questions.
‘I have asked over and over again for the onus of exemption to be on the individual. I know I’ve been criticised on social media etc. All I’m asking for is the fact that we carry on with the prosecution, and then you have an opportunity to show your exemption after.
‘So you’re not challenged in the street, you’re not embarrassed, you’re put on offer, you’re not made to feel belittled or anything like that – you have an opportunity after. That hasn’t been done. So it makes it far more difficult for my colleagues to act upon where they are.’
Mr Marsh continued: ‘Supermarket individuals can’t enforce law. It’s down to the police. It’s private property and they have the right to refuse whoever they want. But that is wholly unfair and there are people who do have very legitimate reasons why they can’t wear one.
‘But if we make the onus very much on the individual, people would think twice, and I would suggest, God forbid, that the only people then not wearing them are the individuals who do have an exemption, and that’s absolutely fine because further down the road we can deal with it.’
National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt said that more officers will be out on dedicated patrols to deal with rule breakers, while Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has also spoken to councils about enforcing the regulations.
Latest figures showed that as of yesterday, a further 1,243 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, which brings the UK total to 81,960.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 99,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The Government also said that, as of 9am yesterday, there had been a further 45,533 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 3,118,518.
A security guard watches as a shopper leaves a Morrisons supermarket in Peckham, South East London, without a face mask this morning. It is not known if they have an exemption, or had just taken off their mask after leaving the store
A security guard challenges a man for not wearing a mask at Morrisons in Peckham, South East London, this morning
Security check to see if people are wearing face masks at Morrisons in Peckham, South East London, this morning
Mr Hewitt told a briefing yesterday that officers will not ‘linger’ trying to encourage the public to obey lockdown rules. He said: ‘It is very clear that we are now at the most dangerous stage of the pandemic.
‘There is a real and present risk that our health service could be overwhelmed and people – our friends and family – could die needlessly from this virus. So, we must all play a part in stopping that from happening.
‘Ten months on, the rules are clear and I urge everyone to abide by them. With a virus spreading so rapidly through contact with others we should all be asking ourselves whether our reason to leave home is truly essential. Those personal decisions are critical.’
He gave examples of recent breaches including a boat party in Hertfordshire with more than 40 people who had each paid £30 each for a ticket, and a minibus full of people from different households travelling from Cheltenham into Wales for a walk.
Earlier, crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse said officers would be adopting a new ‘high-profile’ approach to enforcing the rules that could include stopping members of the public to ask why they are not at home.
Commuters sit and stand on board a Jubilee line train this morning as they travel through London
Commuters wear face coverings while travelling on the Jubilee line through the capital this morning
Passengers stand and sit as they travel on the Jubilee line through London on their commute this morning
Tube passengers stand on board a Jubilee line train travelling through London this morning
A man travels on the London Underground’s Jubilee line this morning while wearing a face mask pulled below his nose
Commuters wait for the doors to close on board a Jubilee line this morning as the third lockdown continues
Commuters travel on an escalator at a London Underground station this morning as they continue to travel to work
Traffic comes into London over the Marylebone flyover as England’s third coronavirus national lockdown continues
The 18 London bus travels into Central London this morning over the Marylebone flyover during the third national lockdown
Dame Cressida also warned that officers in London will move swiftly to fine people who blatantly ignore the regulations.
Their comments came amid confusion over the distance that members of the public are allowed to travel to exercise, with the Prime Minister sparking debate after going for a bike ride seven miles from Downing Street.
During the briefing Ms Patel herself incorrectly referred to ‘outdoor recreation’ being allowed under the rules, apparently having meant to say exercise.
Leaders of police groups called on the Government to clarify the ‘incredibly vague’ rules, which saw two women incorrectly fined for driving five miles from their Derbyshire homes to meet for a walk.
But Mr Hewitt rejected setting a specific distance that members of the public should be able to travel by law, because it would be too difficult to prove if they had broken the rules.
Home Secretary Priti Patel (left) and National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt (right) at yesterday’s briefing
This came as:
- The latest health service figures showed 2,347,461 people in Great Britain have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
- The Government faced calls to urgently roll out its national free school meal voucher scheme after one mother posted an image of a £30 parcel estimated to contain just more than £5 worth of food.
- Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that more than 40,000 extra deaths have taken place in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
- NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson told MPs the peak demand on the health service may not be reached until early to mid-February.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ministers will consider whether key workers such as police, teachers and essential shop staff should be prioritised once the most vulnerable have received the coronavirus vaccine.
Police leaders are pushing for frontline officers to get the vaccine after the highest priority groups have received their jabs.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons, M&S and Lidl agree masks crack down amid fears of attacks on staff
By Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Editor for the Daily Mail
Britain’s biggest supermarkets united last night in formally banning customers without masks.
The stores have also urged customers to shop alone in an effort to help combat increasing infections. Wearing masks will now be strictly enforced at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Lidl.
The move follows pressure from the Government, with some ministers suggesting that retailers have not been doing enough to protect the public.
Many industry leaders are privately furious, however, that shops are being treated as scapegoats for soaring infections.
A woman is challenged yesterday for not wearing a mask at a Morrisons store in South East London
There are concerns the clampdown will trigger flashpoints at supermarket doors, with staff facing abuse and even violence.
Tesco explained its tough line, saying: ‘To protect our customers and colleagues, we won’t let anyone into our stores who is not wearing a face covering, unless they are exempt in line with government guidance. We will have additional security in stores to help manage this.’
Waitrose said: ‘Marshals will be positioned at the entrances of all supermarkets. They will have disposable masks for customers who do not have their own and will deny admission to anyone refusing to comply.’
In contrast, both the Co-op and Iceland have refused to enforce wearing masks for fear it will lead to attacks on employees.
An Asda shopper in Swindon has no face mask yesterday. She is also wearing a lanyard and it is not known whether she has an exemption
The two stores and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) insist the police are responsible for enforcing the rules – not shop workers. The penalty is £200 for a first offence.
The Co-op has seen an 80 per cent rise in attacks, including swearing, spitting and physical assaults, during the pandemic. It said: ‘We have strict policies about ensuring our colleagues are not placed in harm’s way.’
Iceland said: ‘In view of the rising tide of abuse and violence directed at our store colleagues, we do not expect them to confront the small minority of customers who aggressively refuse to comply.’
A shopper at a Morrisons in Thamesmead, South East London, brought along her face mask yesterday but failed to utilise it correctly
It has been suggested the Government could increase the social distancing rule for shops from one to two metres, and also ban non-essential stores offering ‘click and collect’.
The majority of retail industry bosses argue both plans would be a disaster – particularly for small shops.
BRC director of business and regulation, Tom Ironside, said: ‘The ability for non-essential stores, from florists to toy and book shops, to offer click and collect services has been a lifeline.’
John Lewis has already decided to partially suspend its click and collect service from department stores, although it will still be available through Waitrose.