Coronavirus lockdown: Are the police stopping people who go outside?

25 March 2020, 06:26

Police are stopping motorists in Cornwall to remind them of the rules
Police are stopping motorists in Cornwall to remind them of the rules. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

With the UK Covid-19 lockdown in place and people told they are only allowed to leave their homes under limited circumstances are the police stopping people in the street?

On Monday Boris Johnson put the nation into lockdown as part of a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.

He warned that police would issue fines to those found disobeying the new rules but have the police been stopping people in the street? And what should you do if you are stopped by officers?

Heres what we know so far:

Read more: Can you drive during the coronavirus lockdown?

Why can you leave your home during the lockdown?

The four reasons you can now leave your home are:

-shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible

-one form of exercise a day - for example, a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household

-any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

-travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

Read more: Coronavirus symptoms - What are they and what is the risk of Covid-19 in the UK?

Who is allowed to leave their home to go to work?

The Government published a list of "key workers" whose children will continue to be cared for at school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Health and social care

Frontline health and social care staff such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, as well as support and specialist staff in the health and social care sector. In addition it includes those working in supply chains including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

Nursery, teaching staff and social workers.

Key public services

Those required to run the justice system, religious staff, as well as those responsible for managing the deceased, and journalists providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

Administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services, including payment of benefits.

Food and other necessary goods

Those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food.

Read more: Coronavirus: Beard sanitiser sales spike after NHS urged staff to shave

Public safety and national security

Police, support staff, Ministry of Defence civilian staff and armed forces personnel, fire and rescue staff, and those responsible for border security, prisons and probation.


Those who will keep air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the Covid-19 response.

Utilities, communication and financial services

Staff required to keep oil, gas, electricity, water and sewerage operations running. Staff in the civil nuclear, chemical and telecommunications sectors. Those in postal services and those working to provide essential financial services.

Are the police stopping people?

Yes, officers from several police forces have been stopping people in the street to check they are only carrying out essential journeys.

Around 500 extra British Transport Police have been deployed to train stations to check people are only making essential trips.

While, police in Cornwall were among the first forces to stop vehicles to make sure drivers had valid reasons for leaving their homes.

Members of the public in Newquay spotted 'roadblocks' in place, less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister's announcement.

Read more: How long does Covid-19 live on surfaces, and is it safe to get overseas post?

A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police told Cornwall Live: "Today in Cornwall a number of neighbourhood patrols have carried out stop checks on vehicles travelling within the county.

"The purpose of these checks is to engage with the public and to explain and reiterate the request from Government, ensuring people have considered if their journey is essential."

Meanwhile, police in Plymouth set up unannounced ‘checkpoints’ across the major routes in and out of the city.

There have also been reports of police stopping people in Gloucestershire, Scotland, Wales, the West Midlands and Essex.

Read more: Who is a key worker and what children are classed as vulnerable in UK school closures?

What should you do if the police stop you?

At the moment officers are reminding people of the rules and asking why they are travelling.

Some workplaces have given staff "key worker" letters so they can show anyone who stops them that they have to go to work.

NHS, Police, Fire Brigade, MoD and Military staff have all been advised to carry their work ID with them.

Read more: Coronavirus and pregnant women: What is the official government advice?

Can the police fine you for being outside?

Yes they will be able to. From Thursday, new laws will give police the power to fine people caught outside their homes in groups of more than two.

The Telegraph newspaper reported guidance issued before the legislation takes effect is expected to urge officers to "persuade, cajole, negotiate and advise” people to disperse before they issue the £30 penalty notices.

Read more: Coronavirus - Who should self-isolate and for how long?

But, Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said that once the new legislation is in place: "My view is that my officers will just carry on talking to people and advising people.

"The vast majority of people want to comply with the law, the vast majority of people want to keep their society safe."

Downing Street confirmed that anyone who fails to pay a fine "could be subject to criminal proceedings and a criminal conviction".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "If further steps are recommended in order to further contain the spread of this virus then we are not going to rule anything out."