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Greater Manchester 'mystery shoppers' to be used to report coronavirus rule-breakers
6 August 2020, 15:07
So-called 'mystery shoppers' will be reporting to local authorities in Greater Manchester over suspected coronavirus rule breaches.
The new scheme follows reports that a significant number of businesses are failing to enforce the new rules properly, something which has sparked concern at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
At a press conference on Wednesday, mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said that while the authority was trying to send clear messages to the public and business owners, it was not reaching everybody in the same way.
He told reporters: "The priority will be targeted enforcement at repeat offenders and that is what we are clearly saying is what we will do.
"It builds on an approach we took earlier this week, where there was a concern around house parties - Greater Manchester Police worked very effectively with our councils in identifying addresses that were repeat offenders and action was taken.
"If pubs are failing to take people's details when they arrive - and we are receiving lots of reports that it's still very variable out there - we will use targeted enforcement or mystery shopping."
He added that the measures were necessary to ensure that all premises are "maintaining the right procedures" and that the public are still able to tell the council about businesses who are breaking the rules.
On individuals not following the rules, Mr Burnham said: "It will be difficult for the police to enforce with households not mixing in premises and the onus, I think, is on the individual in that respect."
Last week, people in Greater Manchester were made subject to tighter restrictions following a sharp increase in the number of new Covid-19 cases in several of its 10 boroughs.
New rules have banned people from two households - outside a support bubble - meeting together in private homes or gardens, with rule-breakers facing fines of up to £3200.
The guidance also prohibits meeting indoors elsewhere, in places such as pubs, restaurants and gyms, but has not been made legally enforceable.
It follows concerns over the Government's handling of its Test and Trace system, which new figures today revealed has only managed to contact 72.4% in the past week - making it the lowest rate since the "world beating" system was launched at the end of May.