Fines of up to £3,200 for repeatedly not wearing a mask have been announced by Boris Johnson alongside eased lockdown measures for bowling alleys, casinos, skating rinks and beauty salons.
The prime minister says he wants to ease lockdown rules to help people get back to work and enjoy things they have missed – but there will be tougher penalties for repeat offenders who flout the rules.
The maximum fine for not wearing a mask is to be doubled from £1,600 to £3,200 and fines of up to £10,000 are planned for “senseless” people who host or organise illegal raves that put lives at risk.
But at the same time, the PM says lockdown rules will be eased to allow:
Bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos to reopen for the first time as well as indoor play and soft play centres
Beauty salons, tattoo studios, spas and barbers in England to offer all close contact services and treatments
Sit-down wedding receptions for up to 30 people to resume in coronavirus-secure premises
Indoor arts and music performances with socially distanced audiences
Sports and business events pilots to resume.
Announcing the latest lockdown shake-up, Mr Johnson said: “Most people in this country are following the rules and doing their bit to control the virus, but we must remain focused and we cannot be complacent.
“That is why we are strengthening the enforcement powers available to use against those who repeatedly flout the rules.
“At every stage I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional and that it relies on continued progress against the virus.
“Today, we are able to announce some further changes which will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed.
“However, as I have always said, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required, or to continue to implement local measures to help to control the spread of the virus.”
On the doubling of the maximum fine for not wearing a mask, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We introduced mandatory face coverings on public transport to protect people and stop coronavirus spreading.
“I’m grateful to all those who have complied, and of course many people have legitimate reasons not to wear face coverings – but for those who aren’t exempt, there is no excuse.
“That’s why we must get tougher on repeat offenders. This new system will look to ensure everybody who is not exempt wears a face covering on public transport, continuing the public’s excellent efforts in helping this country recover.”
And on the new fines for illegal raves, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Coronavirus remains a real and present threat to all of us and the majority of the British public are doing the right thing.
“I will not stand by and see these sacrifices undermined by a small minority of senseless individuals.
“These measures send a clear message – if you don’t cooperate with the police and if you put our health at risk, action will follow.”
More culture, sport, leisure and business events will also be allowed from this weekend.
The government said two weeks ago there were concerns about a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive, but the situation now appears to have levelled off.
Indoor theatres, music and performance venues will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences under updated performing arts guidance being published by the government, after a successful series of pilots.
The piloting of some sporting events will resume from Saturday with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place from 1 October.
The first of these will be the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre on Saturday and Sunday.
The government says beauty salons, tattoo studios, spas and barbers across England will be able to offer treatments such as eyebrow threading, make-up eyelash treatments and facials and botox from Saturday.
But hairdressers will have to wear a surgical face mask in addition to a clear visor that covers the face.
The government says this will help protect the customer and staff from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing, or speaking.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “From Saturday, salons, spas and other close contact services across England will once again be able to offer all services in a way that is safe for workers and clients.
“I am pleased to give these often small, independent businesses a much-needed boost as we progress with our plan to kickstart the economy to protect jobs and incomes.
“Opening up the economy is conditional on our continued success at controlling the spread of coronavirus. Therefore it remains essential businesses comply with COVID-19 secure measures to protect workers and the public.”
In a boost for the hospitality sector, events and conferences will be able to resume, provided infection levels remain at current levels, meaning this year’s Tory conference – on hold at present – could take place after all.
Fines for not wearing a face covering in a mandated area are currently £100 (or £50 if paid in 14 days).
In future, repeat offenders will see their fines doubled on each offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
Police forces across England and Wales have already stepped up patrols to prevent illegal gatherings, including major events in Leicester and Greater Manchester which were larger than those on New Year’s Eve.
Last weekend, West Midlands Police shut down 125 parties and raves – and closed a pub – taking action to stop illegal gatherings and anti-social behaviour across the region.
Transport for London and British Transport Police have enforced face coverings rules 91,501 times, preventing 4,397 people from boarding, asking 3,030 to leave the network and issuing 341 penalty notices.
But despite the changes announced by the prime minister, nightclubs, dance halls, and discos, as well as sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars, will remain closed.