Neighbours who ‘mingle’ should be reported to the police if they are in breach of the new ‘rule of six’ coronavirus restrictions, a Home Office minister said.
Most gatherings of more than six people in England are now against the law with people advised to stick within the same social group in order to slow the spread of the Covid-19.
Furthermore those considering changing social groups are advised to self isolate for two weeks before doing so in order to help limit the spread of the contagion.
With the new legislation in effect from today Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has suggested people ring the non-emergency 101 number if they have concerns laws are being breached.
Mr Malthouse said if people saw ‘that kind of thing’ they should consider calling the police.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are in discussions about what reporting mechanisms there might be, but there is obviously the non-emergency number that people can ring and report issues they wish to.’
Pressed on whether that would involve reporting a gathering of seven or more in a neighbour’s garden, Mr Malthouse said: ‘It is open to neighbours to do exactly that through the non-emergency number, and if they are concerned and they do see that kind of thing, then absolutely they should think about it.’
Gatherings of more than six people in England is against the law, with fines rising to £3,200 for repeated breaches.
Mr Malthouse told Times Radio he decided to cancel his child’s birthday party to avoid breaking the rules.
‘You cannot meet socially in groups of more than six in England and that includes children,’he said.
‘While I understand that people will say ‘they are mixing in school anyway’, this is not about eliminating contact, it’s about limiting contact.’
How strictly the new rules are enforced remains to be seen with Downing Street suggesting the policy was aimed more at ‘egregious’ breaches than smaller gatherings.
Asked whether people should report their neighbours, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘What we want people to be focused on is following the new rules and ensuring that they, themselves, help again as they have in the past to slow the spread of the virus.
‘What you have seen in recent weeks is some egregious flouting of the rules, such as the holding of large illegal parties, and members of the public have been contacting the police about those because they have been concerned about the risk to public health.’
National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt denied the approach effectively meant they would be relying on people ‘grassing up’ their neighbours.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think what it relies on is all of us being responsible.’
The rules do allow for more than six people to attend gatherings ‘operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body’, or at outdoor events organised by ‘a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body’ so long as attendee stick to their groups and do not ‘otherwise mingle’.
What constitutes unlawful mingling will be left to police discrection, Downing Street said.
‘Police are used to using their discretion in upholding the law and I’m sure that’s what they will do in this case,’ the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, leads the Metropolitan Police’s response to coronavirus. He said officers will patrol public spaces and respond swiftly to incidents where groups gather in large numbers.
‘Where people just won’t listen, and are putting everyone at risk, we absolutely will take enforcement action,’ he said.
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