The Metropolitan Police have said they will no longer reason with people who refuse to wear masks without a good reason in the new coronavirus lockdown.
The service said on Wednesday morning that it will also fine everyone who attends parties, unlicensed music events or other large illegal gatherings, instead of just the organisers, as part of a plan to punish rule breakers quicker.
Officers will also be “more inquisitive” with people when they are out and about in London, because there are “fewer” reasons to leave the home, the force said.
Watch: The new lockdown rules
Anyone without a legitimate reason to be out can “expect officers to move more quickly to enforcement” and people who refuse to wear a face covering without an excuse will be fined.
A Met statement added: “Although officers will still apply the 4 E’s approach of engaging, explaining, and encouraging – only then enforcing, the Met has issued refreshed instructions to officers to issue fines more quickly to anyone committing obvious, wilful and serious breaches.”
Under new rules, reasonable excuses to leave the home include going to work when you can’t work from home, shopping for essentials or exercise.
A number of exemptions to mask wearing, listed on gov.uk, include physical or mental illness or impairment and those who could suffer “severe distress” from putting a covering over their face. Children aged under 11 are exempt.
Deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Met’s COVID response, said the number of people unaware of restrictions is “vanishingly small” and that most Londoners would stay at home, wear masks and not gather in groups.
“Our first duty as police officers is to preserve life,” he said.
“The critical situation our NHS colleagues are facing and the way the new virus variant moves through communities, means we can no longer spend our time explaining or encouraging people to follow rules where they are wilfully and dangerously breaching.”
The force has launched a new digital fines system which allows for quicker on-the-spot fines, and has led to more people getting reported for more fines than the rest of the year combined, Twist said.
“I hope it is not necessary for this particular trend to carry on but if people continue to break the rules, putting themselves, their families and their communities at greater risk, our officers are ready to act robustly,” he continued.
“This is why Londoners must take action now to stop this virus spreading further across our city.
“Action now by everyone will help reduce the time our capital must live with these restrictions and crucially, will prevent more people from dying needlessly because of this virus.
“It’s up to us all to do the right thing.”
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