What are the new rules on social distancing in Wales and what powers do the police have to enforce them?
The First Minister Mark Drakeford has signed into law new public health regulations strengthening police enforcement powers in Wales to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The new powers to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives have come into force immediately.
They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Welsh Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
Individuals will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:
- Shopping for basic necessities and supplies, which should be as infrequently as possible;
- One form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of their household;
- Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
- Travelling to and from work, but only where they cannot reasonably practicably work from home.
People should also stay at least 2m away from those from anyone outside of their household at all times.
Participating in gatherings of more than two people in public spaces is also not permitted except in very limited circumstances, for example, where it is for essential work purposes.
There are only two exceptions to this rule:
- Where the gathering is of a group of people who live together – this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
- Where the gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.
In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
People who work in a critical sector, or have a child that has been identified as vulnerable, can continue to take their children to school. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
The police will have powers to enforce these new rules. If people do not comply with these new laws:
- They can be directed to return home or removed from where they are and returned home.
- They may have to pay a fixed penalty notice of £30, which if not paid within 14 days will double to £60, and if they are issued with a second or subsequent notice the charge will be £120.
Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice under the regulations could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.
If an individual continues to refuse to comply, they will be acting unlawfully, and the police may arrest them. However, in the first instance, the police will always apply their common sense and discretion.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford said that the new law coming into force sets out what we need people across Wales to do: stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives.
“I want to thank our NHS, and other front-line services for the absolutely incredible job they’re doing during these incredibly testing times,” he said.
“If we all follow these rules, we will stop this terrible virus from spreading, we will save lives, and we will protect the NHS.
“The new powers I have signed into law will give our police the powers they need to protect the public and keep people safe.”
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