Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new restrictions in a bid to see off a spike in virus infections, as a second COVID wave looms.
The Government has slapped 10pm curfews on pubs and restaurants, has promised extra funds for policing and says it will even consider utilising the army to backfill for policing as part of the new rules.
It has also dramatically increased the fines for not wearing a face mask in enclosed spaces and for people with symptoms breaking self-isolation quarantines.
West Yorkshire Police Federation Chair Brian Booth said the situation is getting “extremely serious” and that he is expecting to see more people not abide by the restrictions.
“We’re on a dangerous precipice, and we’ve all got a part to play in abiding by the rules.
“Depending what happens with the R rate over the next few weeks, I can see the police becoming more involved and there being more fines to dish out.
“As you go about your usual business every day, you can see some people are just not abiding by some of the rules.
“They are not wearing face masks in enclosed areas, they are not keeping to the 2m social distancing restrictions, and they are congregating in groups more than six.
“In policing, we’ve had a long period of engage, explain and encourage – if people haven’t heard about the regulations surrounding COVID they must have been living in a bubble.”
“Enforcement is going to become heavier and more stringent,” he added.
“I’m not speaking on behalf of West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable; he’ll say we still have legitimacy in policing and we have a duty to engage and encourage before we go to enforcement, but I think you’ll find those who blatantly disregard and flout the rules will be fined very quickly.
“It’s extremely serious and it’s clear something has got to change.”
Visions of armed soldiers out on the streets enforcing curfews and detaining rule-breakers are wide of the mark, Brian said.
The army has already helped out behind the scenes, and Brian expects any military involvement to mirror the time when they took to the streets during the firefighter strikes.
“I’ve not seen the plans, but I think I can allay the public’s fear around seeing the army out on the streets with their guns,” he said.
“They have been used already during the pandemic; they built the Nightingale Hospitals and did a terrific job.
“What the public won’t have seen in the background is their excellent logistics work.
“They were getting vital PPE out to first responders and the NHS to make sure we could work in a safe environment; they’ve already been deployed to assist us.
“Two weeks ago, we were told we’d have COVID marshals, but I’ve not seen any of those yet – sometimes when we hear these statements we just don’t have the details.”
“A few years ago, the firefighters went on strike, and I worked with the army then,” Brian added.
“They didn’t come with their guns, they came with the Green Goddess fire engines and helped to keep everyone safe.
“I don’t think it will be any different to that, and it won’t be a decision that is rushed.”
A strain on police resources means it just won’t be possible for officers to attend every call reporting people breaking the rule of six, Brian said.
But that doesn’t mean the police aren’t interested in dealing with incidents.
“We have seen a slight increase in people reporting others breaking the rule of six in West Yorkshire, and we fully expected that,” he said.
“We have to evaluate threat, risk and harm, and we just don’t have the resources to attend every time someone breaks the rule of six.
“But the call is still logged, so if there is a breakout of COVID in that area then those who have broken the restrictions will still have some serious questions to face and there may be subsequent investigations.
“You can’t make people follow the rules; people have to choose to do so and for there to be suitable punishments in place when they don’t,” Brian added.
“Even fines won’t stop people breaching the regulations – we’ve all got to work together, because the long-term effects of this pandemic could be devastating on our communities.”
Date posted: October 17, 2020