A Downing Street spokesman today suggested police would not immediately start imposing fines on people who break the “rule of six” restrictions.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What you would expect to happen is for the police to be out today encouraging people to follow the new rules but in the coming days, if we see people continuing to flout the new rules, it is right that people could face a fine.
“The regulations are in place to help to stop the spread of the virus, to protect the NHS and to ultimately save lives.”
Asked whether people should report neighbours who breach coronavirus rules, 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.”
Police will be expected to exercise their discretion in enforcing the “rule of six” coronavirus regulations, Downing Street said.
The Government has made it illegal to “mingle” under the new law enabling the enforcement of rules in England.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) will set out further guidance for officers on how to respond to unlawful mingling, Number 10 indicated.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The NPCC will set out guidance for police forces, but 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 six-person limit provides “clarity” for officers, the spokesman added.
The statement comes after Policing Minister Kit Malthouse told people to call police if they see people flouting the new law.
From Monday, any social gathering of more than six people is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said concerned neighbours should ring the non-emergency police phone number to report violations.
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.”
He told Times Radio he had cancelled his own child’s birthday party to avoid breaking the rules.
“You are speaking to a dad who had to cancel his own kid’s birthday party next weekend,” he said.
“You cannot meet socially in groups of more than six in England and that includes children.
“While I understand that people will say “They are mixing in school anyway’, this is not about eliminating contact, it’s about limiting contact.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chairman Martin Hewitt denied that enforcement of the rule of six relies on people “grassing up” their neighbours.
“I think what it relies on is all of us being responsible,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“We all have a responsibility to do what we can do, to take the steps that are required to stop the transmission and to abide by regulations so we can prevent this disease moving further through the country.”
Regulations enabling the enforcement of the rule were published late on Sunday night, around 30 minutes before they came into effect.
According to Police UK: “Please only call 999 if it is an emergency. If it’s not an emergency, use our online services if you can. Please only contact us about a social distancing violation if you think there is a serious breach of the rules.”
This link gives me advice on what to do if you see a Covid law breach.