Lockdown fines have been issued by police forces across the UK amid concern about how clear the rules are.
Several forces have announced they have taken action as the NHS deals with the fallout of a rise in infections caused by the new variant of the virus.
In Derbyshire, two women were fined £200 when they went for a walk at a remote spot about five miles from their homes.
The force there, which has faced criticism for that move, has since said it would review all fixed penalty notices issued during the national lockdown after it received clarification about the coronavirus regulations.
Yet tough messages are still being issued by police in an effort to enforce the latest lockdown.
Wiltshire Police has announced that people will be dealt with more quickly for breaches, while the Metropolitan Police has revealed it has taken action after a gym stayed open.
In North Wales, police said its officers had dealt with people breaching coronavirus rules at Moel Famau, a beauty spot in Flintshire.
The force’s rural crime team account tweeted: “Another day wasted dealing with Covid rule breakers.
“So frustrating that we have to deal with these people who simply don’t care whilst the vast majority of us do the right thing and stay at home.
“We are seeing people from England and various areas of Wales…so selfish.”
Norfolk Police said it had fined a man and a woman who drove more than 120 miles to look at a seal colony.
The force said the couple travelled by car from their home in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire to Horsey in Norfolk on Thursday.
In a message on Twitter, Norfolk Police said its officers would “target those who commit the most serious breaches and put others at risk through their behaviour”.
The force urged people to “stay local” and avoid travelling outside their village, town or city.
Ex-Durham Police chief constable Mike Barton said politicians needed to keep their messaging “simple” around Covid-19 regulations and avoid changing the rules as much.
He made the comments after the two women were fined by Derbyshire Police after travelling separately to Foremark Reservoir from their homes in Leicestershire across their county border for a socially distanced walk.
They said they were surrounded by police officers before being told the two drinks they had separately bought from Starbucks constituted a ‘picnic’.
Mr Barton told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “I think personally Derbyshire will row back from this position, but sadly there will be some damage done here because, for the public to comply with the law, they have got to think and see the police are acting fairly.
“It’s called procedural justice. If police aren’t seen to be acting fairly, the public won’t comply.”
Lockdown guidance urges the public to limit exercise – including running, cycling, swimming and walking – to once per day, and says people can leave their home but should not travel outside their local area.
Mr Barton, who led Durham Police between 2012 and 2019, said the lack of a clear definition of the word “local” was part of the problem.
He said: “What’s crucial in this pandemic is that the messaging is clear. It’s Whitehall that’s written this.
“In Scotland, when they talked about people not travelling, they said you can’t cross a local authority area. Now everyone knows what that means, whereas here, we’ve suddenly dreamt up this word local.
“None of those issues have ever been described by the law before, so no wonder there is some confusion out there.”
Mr Barton said police forces have had “hundreds” of different rules sent to them in the past nine months, and there had been little training on how to enforce them.
He added: “I have a great deal of sympathy for the police, but equally I have a great deal of sympathy for these two women who were exercising in what they considered to be a safe way.
“What I would ask for is politicians stop changing the rules as much and let’s keep the messaging simple.”
Derbyshire Police said the women could have taken exercise closer to their home addresses, and said their actions were “clearly not in the spirit of the national effort” to reduce travel and the possible spread of Covid.
Jessica Allen, who received the fine with friend Eliza Moore, told BBC News: “We are happy to hear that Derbyshire Police have been told to not be so heavy-handed with fines and return to the four Es (Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce) they were originally doing.
“We are yet to hear anything regarding our fine but if we have managed to save somebody the worry of going for a walk and fearing they would be fined then we have done what we set out to do.”
Wiltshire Police chief constable Kier Pritchard warned that those breaching Covid-19 rules would face enforcement action “much quicker”.
Writing in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, he said: “Although we will continue to police with consent and in a proportionate way, my officers will move to enforcement much quicker when confronted with people clearly breaching the rules.”
In the capital, Metropolitan Police officers were called to the fitness centre on Stean Street in Hackney on Friday to reports of a breach of regulations.
The gym was open and three people were found inside, resulting in the owners being issued a £1,000 fine, the Met said.
It comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the city as the spread of coronavirus threatens to “overwhelm” its hospitals.
City Hall said Covid-19 cases in London had exceeded 1,000 per 100,000.
In addition, there are 35 per cent more people in hospital with the virus than in the peak of the pandemic in April.
NHS England figures published on Friday showed the number of Covid patients in London hospitals stands at 7,277, up 32 per cent on the previous week.
Elsewhere in Derbyshire, Derbyshire Live has reported anger in the county at fines issued by police for people visiting local beauty spots.
In response to the incident at Foremark Reservoir, one reader said: “A disgrace, beyond belief, the police should be ashamed of this. The Government say you can go out for a walk, and bringing a coffee with you is not doing any harm.”
Others said issuing fines before a formal warning was unfair. However, there was support for the police, who some said were “just doing their job to keep people safe”.
Fines of £200 have been handed out for people travelling outside of their local area, the website reports. Police have also been present at Calke Abbey and Elvaston Castle in recent days.
— to www.inyourarea.co.uk