Police have been given powers to issue £800 fines for those attending house parties during the coronavirus lockdown, doubling for each incident to a maximum of £6,400 for repeat offenders.
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the measures, which will apply to those who attend illegal gatherings of more than 15 people in homes, at a press briefing on Thursday.
At the same meeting, health bosses hit out at “morally reprehensible” people who tried to fraudulently get a vaccine.
Ms Patel said there was still a “small minority” of people breaching coronavirus lockdown rules.
“Such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to public health, not only to those in attendance, but also to our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down,” she said.
“From the outset, we have given the police and necessary powers to enforce the rules, which are in place to stop the spread of this virus and, as these latest measures will demonstrate, we will not stand by while a small number of individuals put others at risk.”
Ms Patel was backed by Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
He said that since regulations were introduced in late August, to January 17 this year, 250 large party fines fines had been issued across England.
He outlined some of the worst incidents including a party of more than 40 in London and one of 150 in Hartfordshire.
“These are just a few examples where our officers are not only exposing themselves to the risks of COVID, but in some cases are also facing abuse and physical assault, from those who are wilfully breaching the regulations and endangering all of those present,” said Mr Hewitt
“We have repeatedly made it clear that house parties and other large gatherings shouldn’t be happening,” he added.
“They’re dangerous irresponsible and totally unacceptable and I hope that the likelihood of an increased fine acts as a disincentive for those people who are thinking of attending or organising such event.
“This is about saving lives. When we see people that are putting others, and themselves in danger we will not waste time trying to reason with them. They’re demonstrating no regard for the safety of others, or even themselves.”
At the same meeting, Dr Vin Dawakar, the NHS England Regional Medical Director for London reported that “some unscrupulous people” were using links shared with them to “falsely book a vaccination appointment”.
“To do this is denying some of the most vulnerable people in our community a life saving vaccine.
“Let me be really clear about this, it is morally reprehensible to try and jump the queue at anyone who books to get the vaccine fraudulent they will be turned away.”