Soldiers are to step in so police can target flouters: Troops may be drafted to enforce the new coronavirus crackdown, Boris Johnson says
- Downing Street said soldiers could be brought in to support police enforce the latest coronavirus measures
- Their role wouldn’t be handing out fines or closing businesses but take over duties such as protecting key sites
- The Operation Temperer was first used in the UK aftter the Manchester Arena bombing
TROOPS may be drafted in to help police enforce the latest coronavirus crackdown, Boris Johnson revealed yesterday.
Soldiers could guard sites such as Downing Street, Parliament and nuclear power stations to free up officers to deal with those suspected of breaking the new rules.
It came after the Prime Minister told MPs that fines for breaking the ‘rule of six’ or not wearing a mask would double to £200 for a first offence, while pubs and restaurants which persistently ignore the new 10pm curfew face being closed down.
Downing Street said soldiers could be brought in under Operation Temperer, which is designed to back up the police in the wake of terror attacks or public disorder.
Servicemen would not themselves be handing out fines or closing businesses, a spokesman insisted.
Instead, the police will be able to call in the Army to allow them to devote their resources to enforcing the new rules. The idea is that soldiers will take over duties such as protecting key sites, which also include Buckingham Palace and military garrisons.
Downing Street said soldiers could be brought in to support police enforce the latest coronavirus measures
Operation Temperer allows for up to 5,000 service personnel from all three services to ‘augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties’ at these sites.
It was brought in after France introduced similar measures following the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and was first used in the UK in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing two years later.
However, last night the National Police Chiefs’ Council – which represents senior officers – suggested military help would not be required.
Its chairman Martin Hewitt said: ‘Policing is a unique role and any military support must be assessed very carefully. At the moment, no military involvement is necessary, nor do we anticipate this will be needed.’
Mr Johnson told the Commons that businesses which break the rules could face fines of up to £10,000. ‘These measures will only work if people comply,’ he said.
‘There is nothing more frustrating for the vast majority who do comply – the law-abiding majority – than the sight of a few brazenly defying the rules, so these rules will be enforced by tighter penalties.
‘We have already introduced a fine of up to £10,000 for those who fail to self-isolate, and such fines will now be applied to businesses breaking Covid rules. The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the “rule of six” will now double to £200 for a first offence.
‘We will provide the police and local authorities with the extra funding they need, a greater police presence on our streets, and the option to draw on military support where required to free up the police.’
The PM’s spokesman insisted soldiers would not be handing out fines. ‘[The police] will have the option to draw on military support, using tried and tested mechanisms,’ he said.
‘This would involve the military backfilling certain duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police officers can be out enforcing the virus response.
‘This is not about providing any additional powers to the military, or them replacing the police in enforcement roles, and they will not be handing out fines. It is about freeing up more police officers.’
Mr Johnson said pubs and restaurants must close by 10pm on the dot – with no time for last orders.
‘I am sorry that this will affect many businesses just getting back on their feet, but we must act to stop the virus from being transmitted in bars and restaurants,’ he added.
The Prime Minister said the rules on wearing face coverings will be extended to include shop staff, all taxi users and staff and customers in pubs and restaurants, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
He added: ‘In retail, leisure and tourism and other sectors, our Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach the rules.’