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UK records over 100 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours as police in England given new powers

Those who ignore tougher restrictions on movement could also be fined.

Fiel photo
Fiel photo
Image: PA Images

Updated Mar 26th 2020, 6:43 PM

THE UK HAS recorded more than 100 coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time, with 115 people who tested positive for the virus dying.

“As of 5pm on 25 March 2020, 578 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) have died,” said the official government website, up from 463 on yesterday.

A total of 11,658 cases have now been confirmed in Britain, a daily increase of more than 2,000.

The outbreak is concentrated in London, with the head of an organisation representing bosses in the NHS warning that hospitals in the capital were being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, told BBC radio that hospitals in the British capital have seen an “explosion of demand … in seriously ill patients”, likening it to a “continuous tsunami”, with numbers predicted to surge in the next fortnight.

The increase in numbers comes as the UK’s Home Office warned that people who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules in England will be breaking the law and could be arrested by police. 

Those who ignore tougher restrictions on movement could be hit with a £60 (about €66) fine initially and another for £120 (€132) for a second offence.

Officers were given the power to enforce rules on staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel as of 1pm today.

They can order members of the public to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group, using “reasonable force, if necessary”.

Police can also take steps to make sure parents are stopping their children from breaking the rules.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the powers were designed to “protect the public and keep people safe”.

According to the guidance, the cost of initial fixed penalty notices will be cut to £30 (€33) if paid within 14 days and 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.

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The Home Office said: “If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them where it is deemed proportionate and necessary.

“However, in the first instance, the police will always apply their common sense and discretion.”

Known as the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, similar rules will be in place across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The regulations state they are made “in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health” posed by Covid-19 and the British government considers the “restrictions and requirements imposed by these regulations are proportionate to what they seek to achieve”.

The rules will be in place for an emergency period which must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, starting on 16 April.

People not staying at home 

The news came as Derbyshire Police said people continued to drive to the Peak District for walks despite warnings to stay at home.

In a series of tweets, the force published drone footage of visitors and cars parked. It said people had moved a make-shift roadblock to one side to enter the car park.

Meanwhile other forces started to reveal plans to police the rules.

North Yorkshire Police said officers would be on foot patrol and stopping motorists at “checkpoints” from today onwards. 

Drivers will be asked where they are going, why they are going there, and reminded of the rules on staying at home, according to the force.

Welsh force Dyfed-Powys, which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, said it would be carrying out “high visibility patrols” and stop-checks on vehicles to make sure only those which need to travel are doing so.

Several forces said they had closed police stations to the public in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, instead urging them to contact officers by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.

In a bid to help bolster police numbers, the UK government will allow civil servants who volunteer as special constables to “assist in the national effort to the greatest extent possible”.

Ministers have also pledged to relax tax and pension rules which could deter officers nearing retirement and those who have recently retired from returning to duty.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2020

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