The UK has reported another heavy death toll amid the coronavirus pandemic, with 1,243 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday. The figure represents the second highest daily total since the outbreak began.
Giving the government”s daily briefing, Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen by 22% in a week and now stood at 35,075.
Patel pledged a further crackdown on people violating the lockdown, saying “police will enforce the rules”.
“A minority of people are putting the health of the nation at risk by not obeying the rules”, she said.
Some 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued, the authorities say.
There has been concern that people are not respecting “stay at home” guidance as conscientiously as they did during the first lockdown last spring.
However, there has been criticism that the rules are confusing. There has also been unease from the police, with claims that there is a difference between what guidelines say and what the law states, making enforcement difficult.
Martin Hewitt, Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, gave some examples of breaches of the rules police had encountered:
- A boat party in Hertfordshire where 40 people had paid £30 (€33.60) for a ticket.
- A minibus full of people from different households who travelled from Cheltenham to Wales (a distance of some 60 kilometres) to go for a walk.
- In Surrey a £10,000 (€11,200) fine was issued to the organiser of a party who tried to claim it was a business event.
- In Bristol a 19-year-old man was arrested after an advert for an illegal rave was found on social media. The event was prevented from happening, fines were issued on 38 people who showed up, and many others were turned away.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick wrote in The Times on Tuesday that rule-breakers were “increasingly likely” to face fines as police move “more quickly” to enforce lockdown restrictions.
The British cabinet was due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of tightening the lockdown rules for England as the new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 is putting immense pressure on the National Health Service.
The number of hospital beds in England filled by COVID-19 patients has been rising steadily for more than a month. English hospitals are now treating 55% more COVID-19 cases than during the first peak of the pandemic in April.
Boris Johnson has urged the public to strictly follow guidelines meant to curb the disease. However, the prime minister has himself come under scrutiny after reports he was seen cycling in east London, seven miles from his home, at the weekend.
On a more positive note, Home Secretary Priti Patel said more than 2.4 million people in the UK had now had a vaccine injection against COVID-19.
On Monday seven major vaccination centres opened across the country. The sites include football stadiums and a horse racing course, and are located in or near cities including Bristol, London and Manchester.
The UK authorities have set a target of getting around 14 million vulnerable people vaccinated by mid-February.