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Police officers are to begin knocking on doors in areas with high infection rates to ensure people ordered into self-isolation are following obeying the law. NHS Track and Trace staff will also intensify calls to check whether those in quarantine are staying at home. And Cabinet ministers insist the Prime Minister is determined to press head with the crackdown to curb a second coronavirus wave despite complaints from rebel Tory MPs that many measures are “draconian.”
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They said the Prime Minister will face down a threatened revolt by backbenchers who want Parliament to “take back control” of Covid restrictions from the Government.
The dramatic escalation of state surveillance begins today as new quarantine rules come into force with fines ranging from £1,000 for a first breach of self-isolation to up to £10,000 for serial offenders.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “These new measures are about saving lives.
“Everyone must take personal responsibility and self-isolate if they test positive or if told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
“For those who fail to do so, the police will enforce the law.
“These new fines are a clear sign that we will not allow those who break the rules to reverse the hard-won progress made by the law-abiding majority.”
Whitehall officials say police will be deployed to check compliance with quarantine orders in the highest infection areas and among high-risk groups based on local intelligence.
Officers will investigate and prosecute “high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance”, say Government sources.
Police will act on tip offs, including people reporting on their neighbours who are failing to self-isolate when required.
As the new restrictions came into force last night, the Tory revolt against Mr Johnson ruling by emergency was growing.
By last night, 42 Tory MPs had backed an amendment to the renewal of coronavirus regulations tabled by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of the party’s backbenchers, designed to give MPs a vote before new rules are imposed.
Sir Graham was expecting more MPs to sign his amendment today.
Steve Baker, one of the leading rebels and a former minister, was “certain” the Government will be defeated if a vote goes ahead on the issue on Wednesday.
“You hear people think that liberty dies – it dies like this with the Government exercising draconian powers without parliamentary scrutiny in advance, undermining the rule of law by having a shifting blanket of rules that no one can understand,” Mr Baker said.
“It’s all about MPs having a vote on the government’s policy before it comes into force and takes away people’s civil liberties.
“MPs have been feeling increasingly helpless as their constituents complain about a real impact on their lives, their jobs, their prosperity, indeed their health, which come from the side effects of Covid measures.
“We are not proposing to take the power from Ministers to decide what’s done or take away the power of business of the House of Commons.
“We’re just saying that the Government should use the procedure that puts a statutory instrument before the House for a debate and a decision.
“In a sense I’m saying MPs should be sharing in the dreadful burden of decision in these circumstances and not just retrospectively being asked to approve what the Government’s done,” he added.
Mr Baker was “certain” there were enough rebels to defeat the amendment with the backing of opposition.
He said: “I’m certain at the moment but, as I say, really we’d prefer to avoid this coming to a division. I’m afraid it’s in the nature of the way Parliament works that things happen like this.
“But I back Boris Johnson, I want him to succeed, but we do need to share with the Government the burden of decision on these measures and not just come in days or weeks later, retrospectively, perhaps voting on measures which have subsequently been amended.”
In a newspaper article yesterday, Mr Baker said: “Parliament must take back control.”
Backbencher Craig Tracey joined MPs signing Sir Graham’s amendment yesterday.
“I fully appreciate why the Government needed temporary powers to take decisive action in the early days of the virus, but now it is time we have the opportunity to scrutinise future measures before they come into effect,” he said.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden yesterday insisted the Government needed powers to act swiftly and said the rebel claims were “slightly overblown.”
He said: “I think it’s important in a crisis like this, when things are moving very rapidly, that the Government has the power to move quickly – and that is the power that the Government was given through the initial legislation earlier this year.
“But then it is important that MPs hold us to account and vote on that, and that is exactly what is happening here.”
Labour and the Lib Dems both signalled they could vote with Tory rebels on Sir Graham’s amendment.
Some MPs are speculating Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle may decline to allow a vote on the amendment. In those circumstances, Mr Johnson is expected to dare rebel to simply vote down his coronavirus measures.
New financial support for low-income households ordered to self-isolate will also become available from today.
Low-income earners who cannot work from home and lose pay as a result of quarantine will also be eligible for a new £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
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Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Anyone can catch coronavirus and anyone can spread it. We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down and protecting our loved ones.
“As cases rise it is imperative we take action, and we are introducing a legal duty to self-isolate when told to do so, with fines for breaches and a new £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who can’t work from home while they are self-isolating.
“These simple steps can make a huge difference to reduce the spread of the virus, but we will not hesitate to put in place further measures if cases continue to rise.”
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Councils across the country are working at pace to set up new self-isolation support payment schemes and ensure people in their communities have the information and advice they need to stay safe and reduce the spread of the virus.
“Since the start of the pandemic councils have played a crucial role in supporting businesses and their communities, and I want to thank them for their hard work as they roll out this new support for those who need to self-isolate.”
Under the new rules coming into force today anyone testing positive for Covid-19 will be required by law to self-isolate for the period ending 10 days after displaying symptoms or after the date of the test, if they did not have symptoms.
Other members of their household must self-isolate for the period ending 14 days after symptom onset, or after the date of the initial person’s positive test.
If someone is instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, they are legally required to self-isolate for the period notified by NHS Test and Trace.
Both household and non-household contacts must self-isolate for the full period, regardless of whether they have symptoms and, if they develop symptoms and take a test, regardless of whether any test taken gives a negative result.
Official figures yesterday revealed a further 5,693 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, taking the overall number of cases confirmed to 434,969.
A further 17 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 by yesterday morning, bringing the UK total to 41,988.
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