New emergency powers to help combat the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced this week after clearing both the House of Commons and House of Lords to receive Royal Assent in three days.
The Coronavirus Bill gives the government wide-ranging powers, the likes of which have never been seen before in peacetime.
Measures outlined in the 348-page document include allowing police to force people with Covid-19 symptoms to self-isolate and powers for police to detain people suspected of having coronavirus and send them to be tested. People who fail to do so could be fined up to £1,000. Police will also be able to issue fixed penalty notices for groups who refuse to disperse.
Responding to the emergency legislation, Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I support the granting of new powers to the police and it is part of my role to provide assurance to the public on how these powers will be used in South Yorkshire. In seeking this assurance I will also be assisted by my Independent Ethics Panel.
“Most people are doing what the government has asked because they know this is the only way we can support the NHS and overcome the threat to individuals and communities from coronavirus.
“The public will support the police as they seek to enforce these measures where the odd individual or group of individuals put the safety of all of us at risk.
“The police will retain public confidence as long as they act proportionately.
“I expect the police in the first instance to seek to persuade people and only to use these powers as a last resort. I have no reason to suppose that South Yorkshire Police will do anything else. They recognise that once the emergency is over they will continue to need the trust and confidence of the public.
“I have regular calls with the Chief Constable where I am updated on everything related to Covid-19 and its impact on the force and the public.”