BRITS will get criminal records if they breach new Covid “rule of six” rules.
Priti Patel urged people to respect the regulations or risk fines of between £100 and £3,200 as marshals start to patrol streets.
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Anyone meeting in a group of more than six indoors or out are now breaking the law.
Home Office officials say those who refuse to accept £100 on-the-spot fines will be arrested and taken to court.
A source said: “Those who repeatedly break the rules need to know they could face a criminal record.”
Pubs, bars and restaurants must also take the details of punters or risk £1,000 fines.
It comes as Government scientific adviser Peter Openshaw warned the rise in infections will “inevitably” result in more “hospitalisations and deaths”.
Writing in The Sun, Ms Patel, the Home Secretary, said: “These new rules are easier to understand and easier for the police to enforce.
“I know that, as part of our national effort, the law-abiding majority will stick to these new rules. But there will be a small minority who do not, and the police have the necessary powers to take action against them.
“This disease is deadly and that is why it is right that the police enforce where people break the rules.”
The full text of new rules was published just 20 minutes before they came into force at midnight.
Ministers are still facing calls from backbench Tory MPs to tweak the rules to exclude kids — like in Scotland and Wales.
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, told Times Radio: “It’s peak infringement of people’s liberties and their right to a normal family life.
“You could mitigate quite considerably by excluding younger children, the people we know who are least likely to be affected by the virus, less likely to spread the virus.”
Prof Openshaw said the nation had to get a grip or risk returning to a “hard lockdown”.
He said: “It starts as a trickle but if you don’t do something about it, it can turn into a real cascade.”
There has also been an explosion in new cases in 43 care homes prompting a call from the Government for providers to act.
A letter, which was sent on Friday, urges care bosses to “take necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks”.
Prof Openshaw said: “It’s starting to appear in people more vulnerable and that inevitably is going to be followed by hospital admissions and deaths so we need to act quickly.”
Hordes of young people partied at the weekend in cities including Leeds and Birmingham, where trouble also flared.
It comes as more than 3,000 cases were recorded overall in the UK for the third day in a row.
If numbers continue to rise, 4.5million people deemed highest risk will be asked to stay at home again or given tailored advice on protection.
A national 10pm or 11pm curfew may also be imposed on restaurants, bars and pubs.
However the rule of six was blasted as “catastrophic” by scientists who warned it could tip the British public over the edge.
Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, called it a panic-stricken “roll of the dice”.
He added: “It is a disturbing decision that has no scientific evidence to back it up.”
The nation’s testing infrastructure is also said to be buckling with the rise in demand.
Law breakers threat to all
TODAY, new rules to stop the spread of coronavirus come into force.
We have always said that our road to recovery, restarting the economy and returning to normal life is conditional — it relies on us continuing to control the virus. With infection rates rising, we must all continue to play our part to put the brakes on this virus and stop it from spreading.
That is why, across England, the police will be enforcing a new rule of six for social gatherings. This will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub.
There are of course important exemptions — including for those in support bubbles, while schools and workplaces remain unaffected.
These new rules are easier to understand and easier for the police to enforce.
They will be able to disperse gatherings of more than six people and fine individuals involved £100, doubling up to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offenders.
They will continue to hand down £10,000 fines for people hosting raves or other large unlawful events.
I know that, as part of our national effort, the law-abiding majority will stick to these new rules.
But there will be a small minority who do not and the police have the necessary powers to take action against them.
This disease is deadly and that is why it is right that the police enforce where people break the rules.
We all want to return to a normal way of life as soon as possible — and these rules will be kept under constant review, only staying in place if necessary.
I know these restrictions will be difficult, just as we were beginning to reunite with friends and loved ones.
But if we are going to beat this dreadful virus we all have a shared responsibility to play our part.
The common sense and community spirit of the British people throughout this health emergency has been astounding and I trust that it will continue to carry us through.
We want people to be able to continue to go out and enjoy themselves but we must remember that coronavirus is a threat to us all.
It is critical that people abide by these rules and remember the basics — washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others and getting a test if you have symptoms.
We are doing everything in our power to stop the resurgence of this terrible virus and that is why it is crucial that we introduce these measures now.
Let’s not throw away our progress in tackling this deadly virus. If we all continue to show the same resolve and determination, we can beat it.
There is a reported backlog of 185,000 swabs, with some now sent off to Italy and Germany, according to leaked documents in The Sunday Times.
Some 35,000 tests also had to be disposed of since the start of August at Randox labs.
Randox said a small minority may be voided for reasons such as leaking or damaged tubes.
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