LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on Thursday announced a new GBP 800 fine on anyone attending a house party of 15 people or more as she issued a warning against breaches of the country's stringent stay-at-home coronavirus lockdown.
Addressing a virtual briefing from 10 Downing Street in London, the senior Cabinet minister said the latest infection figures show that the UK is not "out of the woods" yet and therefore it is "absolutely crucial" that everyone follows the rules on social distancing.
As she revealed the daily COVID-19 death toll of 1,290, Patel warned the "small minority" who continue to break rules would face tougher fines and stricter police enforcement.
"These fines will apply to those who attend illegal gatherings of more than 15 people in homes. The science is clear, such irresponsible (behaviour) clearly poses a threat to public health not only to those in attendance, but our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down," she said, in reference to the new house party fine which would rise up to a maximum level of GBP 6,400 for repeat offences.
Fines were already in place for large events and demonstrations and the lack of face coverings in enclosed spaces.
Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs Council, welcomed the additional rules as he revealed that police officers have been faced with several such "dangerous" house parties in the past few days and weeks.
"Gatherings where people are in close contact with each other, in confined spaces, will allow the virus to spread. And anyone who organises one will be given a fixed penalty notice and so will those who choose to attend," he said, revealing that 250 fixed penalty notices, or fines, of GBP 10,000 have been issued by forces in England to people who have organised large gatherings since August 2020.
Patel also reinforced her message from earlier this week against disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines, to stress that the jabs being administered by the National Health Service (NHS) are safe for everyone and important to save lives.
"I want to take this moment and opportunity to counter some of the disinformation about the vaccine, especially any messages targeted at an ethnic minority background," said Patel.
"This vaccine is safe for us all. It is safe for you and your family. It is our best chance of beating this virus. So I urge everyone across our wonderfully diverse country when the time comes to keep everyone safe," she said.
She was joined by Dr Vin Diwarkar, Regional Director for the London Region for NHS England, who also reiterated the message about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
"If you're called for the vaccine, come forward. It could save your life," he said.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus has claimed 94,759 lives, along with over 3.5 million confirmed infections in the UK.