03:08 GMT17 January 2021
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    Britain’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, has warned that lockdown rule-breakers are now more likely to be fined, following a tougher enforcement of COVID laws during the ongoing pandemic.

    The warning from the UK's most senior police officer follows growing discontent between police and the general public amid widespread lockdown breaches and a surge in COVID cases. Looking at this story in greater detail, we spoke to the political commentator Pete Durnell in this interview.

    Sputnik: What do you make of the news today that police will be ‘quicker’ to enforce COVID rules and pass out fines among the general public?

    Pete: Somewhat disheartened, to be honest. This government, like to be fair many around the world, I think has tried to replace dealing with a virus using common sense - how we used to do it - with a new law or guideline for every situation we might possibly encounter in our daily lives and I think that hasn't worked, and it can never work. And so, the inevitable result is an increasing statute book, obviously, filled with laws and guidelines, which bluntly are frequently contradictory, and very often make no sense. But I'd say really, there are more grey areas now than not grey as a result of this, and from this, we get our police left to try and interpret what they should enforce and inevitably make glaring errors, like the recent fining of the two innocent women walking out in Derbyshire completely legally. We have to remember policing in the UK is by consent, this means we need to have trust in our officers of the law and their actions. Heavy handed enforcement of guidelines like we've already seen, basically guidelines which are very vague, just risk destroying this trust and, in the process, damaging consent for a very long time to come I feel.

    Sputnik: Are greater fines and expanded police powers the right move at this moment?

    Pete: I really don't think so. I believe lockdowns in their current form are just not working and I think the evidence is before us, in this country and across the world. Even in the last week, we've seen infection rates doubling in parts of the north of the UK. I think the reality is we've got lockdown fatigue and resentment is growing, and as a result, each lockdown is having less and less effect than the previous one. I think the government believes to counteract this, it must increase compliance through greater fines, more police powers, ramping up the fear; whereas my opinion is it really needs to take a fresh look at what it is trying to get people to comply with, and the benefits or lack of. So, my big thing is that study after study has shown that outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is incredibly rare, and almost all virus transmission we know takes place indoors. Yet, we have our current lockdown strategy, essentially based around trying to get people to stay at home, which in the middle of winter basically means staying indoors, which is exactly where the virus spreads. So, as I say, you don't need to be a virologist to suggest this is a rather strange, bizarre, and possibly crazy way to go about things.

    © REUTERS / Henry Nicholls
    Anti lockdown protest in London

    Sputnik: What more can the government and police do to reduce cases and ultimately beat the pandemic?

    Pete: We all want to keep people safe. That's the objective I would hope of everybody but my belief is the emphasis of lockdown needs to be changed dramatically and immediately, and what I mean by this is the stay at home message bluntly should be replaced with something like get outdoors, stay outdoors. Because we know socially distanced in a park or countryside is where you're at least likely to contract COVID-19, certainly far less likely than sitting indoors. Particularly, let's say you happen to live in a large household with maybe a hospital worker or supermarket worker, or both. If you're socially distant outdoors, you are basically safe from contracting COVID, plus your time outdoors will be massively more beneficial to your health both mental and physical, with your immune system being built up, then as unfortunately a lot of us are doing at the moment and I confess I'm one of them; sitting at home, watching scrolling infection counts, death counts, and watching endless repeats of Friends and Only Fools and Horses. It's not the way to go.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    lockdown, Law Enforcement, police, COVID-19, UK
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