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Helen Whately says country is at 'serious point in time' as £10,000 fines introduced for isolation rule-breakers

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Social care minister Helen Whately says the country is at a "really serious point in time and needs to take decisive action" to curb the rise in Covid infections.

The Faversham MP was speaking after the government introduced new tough £10,000 fines for those breaching self-isolation rules.

Helen Whately appearing on Sky News this morning
Helen Whately appearing on Sky News this morning

People across England are now legally required to stay out of contact with others if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by the test and trace service.

If they do not adhere to the ruling, they risk being hit with new fines starting at £1,000 and increasing up to £10,000 for repeat offenders or serious breaches.

The move has sparked comparisons to living in "communist East Germany", with neighbours being encouraged to report others for flouting rules.

But Mrs Whately says residents should make their own judgements as to whether they should alert the police over the actions of their neighbours.

Speaking on Sky News this morning she said: "Everyone will make their own judgements about when is it at the level needed.

Testing figures are going up, as to are nationwide Covid infections. Picture: iStock
Testing figures are going up, as to are nationwide Covid infections. Picture: iStock

"If you see there is a marquee in someone's garden and there's a huge party going on, you're probably going to take action.

"I've heard how neighbours have come together and supported each other much more during this pandemic. I don't see how this will ruin that.

"Just yesterday I spoke with one of my neighbours who said 'I've just downloaded the app because I'm doing my part' - that's exactly the approach we should all be taking."

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 Department of Health and Social Care said that police would check compliance in the highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups based on “local intelligence”.

'We don't want to bring in tighter restrictions as we know how difficult they make people's lives...'

"Of course we don't like restrictions on our lives but it is there for a reason, and the reason is this virus is such a horrid thing," Mrs Whately said.

"This is a serious moment in time where we have a choice as a country to get this back under control.

"This is our moment in time to make sure we are doing social distancing, rule of six and all of those things - that is how we control it.

"We don't want to bring in tighter restrictions as we know how difficult they make people's lives.

"But of course we keep a constant eye on what's going on with the Covid rates and we have seen these upward trends in recent weeks."

Meanwhile, her fellow Kent MP Sir Roger Gale says he is supporting a bid to give MPs a greater say on restrictions being introduced by the Government.

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the influential Tory backbench group the 1922 Committee, is putting forward an amendment to the Coronavirus Act on Wednesday which seeks greater parliamentary scrutiny of Covid laws.

Sir Roger, who represents North Thanet, said: "It is, I think, now appropriate that a greater degree of parliamentary scrutiny is applied and parliamentary votes cast as and when the further controls are exercised.

"While I believe that Government must have the ability, as in the case of a declaration of war, to act swiftly and effectively, I am supporting Sir Graham Brady’s amendment to the legislation that is designed to ensure that No.10 and No.11 will have to heed the will of Parliament and not to take a 'Downing Street Knows Best' view of people’s liberties."

He added: "The time has come now, as we do face the prospect of a winter of grave difficulty, for Parliament to reassert its right to have the final say over how and what direction the battle against the pandemic takes.

"It would be fine irony, would it not, if we were to 'take back control from Brussels' only to see it handed to other unelected bureaucrats at home."

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

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