Parents could be issued with punishments if they are found to be failing to keep their children at home during the coronavirus lockdown.
As of 1pm today, police now have the powers to enforce staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel.
And people who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and could be arrested or fined. Officers can use “reasonable force, if necessary”.
However, the Home Office said officers “will always apply their common sense and discretion” in the first instance.
If members of the public do not comply, police will be able to:
- Instruct them to go home, leave an area or disperse;
- Ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules;
- Issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days;
- Issue a fixed penalty notice of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence.
It comes as Merseyside Police urged parents to follow government guidelines while their children aren’t attending school.
Over the last few days, a number of calls have been received reporting large groups of youths gathering in areas of Merseyside, reports the Liverpool Echo.
Following the government’s announcement on Monday night, nobody should be socialising outside their homes and parents are told to keep their children indoors.
A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: “We understand this is a difficult time and that children may be increasingly bored if not attending school with their friends.
“However, now more than ever it’s important that the Government’s guidelines are adhered to so that children, their families, friends and the wider communities are protected.
“Limiting social interactions is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and although we understand how frustrating staying at home must be for young people, it is in the best interest of all.
“To parents and guardians, I would encourage you to reiterate the importance of social distancing to your children and if they must leave the house for any reason, please be aware of where they are going and who with.
“The current guidance is that having friends or family at your house should be avoided, as well as social mixing in the community.”
They continued: “If you do go outdoors for a walk or exercise, you should ensure you stay at least two meters apart.
“We appreciate that these are uncertain and confusing times, especially for young people who may not fully understand the impact of coronavirus, but by following the advice given and sharing this with our children we can slow the spread and keep people safe.”
What is the law called and where is it in force?
Known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, they are currently in force in England.
The regulations are expected to be introduced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales by the end of Thursday.
What are the main points of the rules?
Police can order members of the public to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group, using “reasonable force, if necessary” and can make arrests if someone refuses to comply.
Those who ignore the tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 fine initially – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days – and another for £120 for a second offence.
Those who do not pay could be taken to court and risk facing costs for unlimited fines.
Refusing to provide a name and address to avoid being given a fine is an arrestable offence.
Officers can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.
Why have the rules been enacted?
The Government says it is to protect the public and keep people safe.
The regulations state they are made “in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health” posed by Covid-19 and the Government considers the “restrictions and requirements imposed by these regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve”.
But human rights campaigners have raised concerns about the restrictions posed by the powers.
How long will they be in force?
The regulations are classed as emergency laws.
They must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on April 16.
Why can I leave my house and how often?
Reasons for why someone may leave their house as well as to get food and medical supplies for you, your household or vulnerable people, are to get money and to exercise.
A reasonable excuse also includes: to give blood, attend a funeral, meet bail conditions, go to court and take part in legal proceedings, to move house and to “avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm”.
The rules do not appear to limit how many times per day someone can leave their house.
What else do the rules say?
The rules define who is considered a vulnerable person under the law as someone who is aged 70 or older, anyone aged under 70 who has an underlying health condition and anyone who is pregnant.
Underlying health conditions include: chronic long-term respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinson’s, diabetes, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy, HIV, Aids, cancer, and obesity.
It also lists in detail the businesses and buildings which can stay open – like supermarkets, hardware stores and post offices – and must close – such as pubs, restaurants and theatres – during the crisis.