Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a new lockdown order on Monday for England that not only denies the science about keeping schools open but also threatens huge fines on citizens who violate the highly restrictive rules.
“It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control,” Johnson said, referring to the new COVID-19 strain and noting that the country has experienced 50,000 new coronavirus cases per day for a week. “That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”
The order mandates that people stay at home until mid-February, about the same time that vulnerable populations, the elderly, and frontline workers will begin receiving a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine,” the order reads. “If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live,” it adds.
Reasonable excuses include work, volunteering, education, child care, exercise, receiving medical care, communal worship, life events such as funerals with attendance limits, and other “essential activities.” Those who cannot provide a “reasonable excuse” violate the order and are subject to a £200 fine, which doubles upon every violation, with a maximum of £6,400, which translates to nearly $8,700.
The 22-page order not only instructs people to stay home but also orders schools to close, commands restaurants to deliver or offer takeout only, bans to-go alcohol sales, and closes outdoor sports venues. Universities, colleges, and primary and secondary schools are scheduled to be held online until at least the middle of February except those that are for “vulnerable children and the children of critical workers,” but nurseries are allowed to stay open.
Professional sports leagues such as Premier League football are also permitted, but amateur team sports are not permitted. Gatherings are permitted under certain circumstances, such as for a wedding or funeral, but must be limited to 30 people or less. Those who are caught holding larger gatherings are subject to fines up to £10,000, or about $13,600.
“It is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble,” the order states.