Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

UK minister Helen Whately mocked for advice to shop neighbours over ‘marquee garden parties’

Hefty fines for failing to self-isolate have come into force in England

UK Health Minister Helen Whately said people could go to police if their neighbours are hosting ‘big parties with marquees’. PA
UK Health Minister Helen Whately said people could go to police if their neighbours are hosting ‘big parties with marquees’. PA

UK Health Minister Helen Whately suggested Britons should inform on their neighbours if they are hosting “huge parties with marquees” in their gardens.

Tough new fines of up to £10,000 (Dh47,300) for failing to self-isolate went into force on Monday.

Speaking on Sky News, Ms Whately was asked whether it was right for people to “potentially bankrupt” their neighbours by going to the police if they refuse to follow the rules.

“Everyone will make their own judgments,” she said.

“If you see that there is a marquee in somebody’s garden and there’s a huge party going on, well, you’re probably going to take action about that.

“That’s clearly going to be a real risk of spreading the virus.

“We are in a pandemic. This is an incredibly serious situation we’re in.”

Social media users pointed out that average Britons did not own marquees.

“This truly is the People’s Government,” Keith Burge said.

Another wrote: “If I see a marquee in my neighbour’s garden it’s probably a crime scene.”

Under the new rules, police have the power to check that people who have been told to self-isolate are staying indoors.

If they leave their home they risk being hit with fines of up to £10,000 for serious breaches.

People who test positive for Covid-19 will also be fined if they knowingly provide false information about close contacts to the test and trace service.

The health minister refused to rule out the introduction of tighter restrictions if infections continued to rise.

But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he thought some of the current restrictions had already gone too far.

He suggested the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants should be scrapped for “doing more harm than good”.

Mr Burnham told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “There needs to be an urgent review of the emerging evidence from police forces across the country. My gut feeling is that this curfew is doing more harm than good ... It creates an incentive for people to gather in the streets, or more probably to gather in the home, and that is the opposite of what our local restrictions here are trying to do.

“So I don’t think this has been fully thought through, to be honest.”

Updated: September 28, 2020 03:36 PM

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