Social media users mock Boris Johnson’s army of ‘Covid marshals’

‘The worst sort of busybodies!’ Plan for ‘Covid-secure marshals’ who will enforce rules on social gatherings sparks fears of an army of power-hungry snoopers

  • Workers being introduced to help ensure social distancing in towns and cities
  • But many ridiculed the idea, comparing them to popular bumbling TV characters
  • The PM said recent spike in infections left him no choice but to tighten lockdown 

An army of marshals will be sent to towns and cities across the country to enforce new virus laws, the Prime Minister announced.

They will break up groups of more than six in town centres and alert police if fines need to be handed out.

Recently retired environmental health officers will also be drafted in to enforce legislation at pubs and restaurants.

They will help enforce social-distancing rules and ensure contact details of all customers are collected for the test and trace system.

The marshals will patrol parks, shopping centres, train stations and other areas where groups of people are likely to gather in larger numbers, Boris Johnson said at Wednesday’s press conference.

He said: ‘We will boost the local enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing Covid-secure marshals to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres, and by setting up a register of environmental health officers that local authorities can draw upon for support.’

Boris Johnson today announced a team of 'Covid-secure marshals' to help enforce new rules on social gatherings

Boris Johnson today announced a team of ‘Covid-secure marshals’ to help enforce new rules on social gatherings

Some councils already have marshals who go to busy areas and give advice if people are not social distancing.

They also explain the rules, such as wearing a face mask on public transport.

They cannot fine people but they can alert the police. The move addresses concerns that police were struggling to enforce social-distancing rules because they applied differently in various circumstances.

Police have the power to arrest rule-breakers if needed, as well as fining them £100, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200. 

The Local Government Association welcomed the move, but called for more clarity on the role of marshals, while social media users suggested the idea would create an army of power-hungry snoopers.

Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board said: ‘Councils continue to work tirelessly to support communities through this pandemic and to ensure they are prepared for the threat of a potential second wave.

‘Most hospitality businesses are working hard, supported by councils, to ensure they comply with COVID-19 rules. However, some premises are not collecting contact details of customers so they can be reached in the event of a local outbreak. 

‘This is clearly a danger to communities and puts people at risk of infection, so it is good that this will become mandatory as councils have called for.

‘While most businesses are implementing the necessary measures to protect people’s safety, we are pleased the Government has also acted on LGA calls for councils to have powers to take action when rules are being flouted. 

‘These measures will mean they can act quickly and proactively in cracking down on places that flout COVID-19 guidance, to prevent problems in the first place instead of only being able to act when it is too late.

‘We need to quickly see further detail on how the Government’s COVID-19 Secure Marshal scheme is intended to work, and any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded. 

‘Given the shortage of environmental health officers, it is positive that the Government has committed to a register of EHOs, and the LGA will continue discussions to take this forward.’

On Twitter, however, dozens of people ridiculed the idea, and described them as sounding like ‘the worst sort of busybodies’.

In a series of memes, users compared the marshals to popular bumbling TV characters such as Keith Lard from Phoenix Nights, The Simpsons’ Chief Wiggum and Gareth Keenan from The Office.    

In a series of memes, social media users compared the Covid marshals to popular bumbling TV characters such as Keith Lard from Phoenix Nights

In a series of memes, social media users compared the Covid marshals to popular bumbling TV characters such as Keith Lard from Phoenix Nights

Gareth Keenan, assistant to the regional manager in The Office, was also suggested as someone who the marshals could be modelled on

Gareth Keenan, assistant to the regional manager in The Office, was also suggested as someone who the marshals could be modelled on

Bumbling policeman Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons was another character referenced by mocking social media users

Bumbling policeman Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons was another character referenced by mocking social media users

NEW LOCKDOWN RULES FOR ENGLAND FROM MONDAY 

  • Max social gatherings SIX PEOPLE
  • Applies indoors and outdoors
  • Applies in private homes
  • Applies in pubs and restaurants
  • Does NOT apply to schools or workplaces
  • Does NOT apply to weddings, funerals, team sport
  • Does NOT apply if household bubbles are bigger than six people
  • Police will be encouraged to break up larger groups and issue £100 fines, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200
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Regarding the six people rule, Mr Johnson added: ‘This will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub.

‘The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police – anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested.

‘This single measure replaces both the existing ban on gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors. Now you only need to remember the rule of six.’

The PM also warned the draconian new restrictions could be here for months – as chief medical officer Chris Whitty pointed the finger at ‘Generation Z’ for sparking a surge in cases.

The PM signalled that the ‘rule of six’ limit on how many people can socialise together will be in place for some time to come, after partying among the younger generation fuelled a sharp rise. 

He said the spike in infections seen over the past week left him no choice but to tighten lockdown across England for the first time since March. 

The limit – sparked by concern that partying young people are fuelling a flare-up – is a dramatic reduction on the maximum of 30 put in place on July 4. 

Those breaking the rules can expect a £100 fine from police, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200, with the Covid marshals also introduced in a bid to improve the enforcement capacity of local authorities. 

Apart from a vaccine, Mr Johnson said the only other way out before Christmas was a ‘moonshot’ of introducing mass daily testing for everyone, but admitted that would require ‘everything to come together’.

In a direct plea to young people, Mr Johnson said that they should consider their behaviour ‘for the sake of your parents’ and your grandparents’ health’.

Social media users suggested Special Officer Doofy from Scary Movie would be fit for the job

Social media users suggested Special Officer Doofy from Scary Movie would be fit for the job

Others referenced Boris Johnson's notorious rugby tackle in a charity football match

Others referenced Boris Johnson’s notorious rugby tackle in a charity football match

David Walliams' character from Come Fly With Me met many others' description

David Walliams’ character from Come Fly With Me met many others’ description

Specific workers will be introduced to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres

Specific workers will be introduced to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres

Others were left confused by the mere idea of a Covid marshal as it was first revealed today

Others were left confused by the mere idea of a Covid marshal as it was first revealed today

This user pictured the marshals as enthusiastically reporting groups of seven people

This user pictured the marshals as enthusiastically reporting groups of seven people

The PM signalled that the 'rule of six' limit on how many people can socialise together will be in place for some time to come, after partying among the younger generation fuelled a sharp rise

The PM signalled that the ‘rule of six’ limit on how many people can socialise together will be in place for some time to come, after partying among the younger generation fuelled a sharp rise

He said the spike in infections seen over the past week left him no choice but to tighten lockdown across England for the first time since March

He said the spike in infections seen over the past week left him no choice but to tighten lockdown across England for the first time since March

The limit - sparked by concern that partying young people are fuelling a flare-up - is a dramatic reduction on the maximum of 30 put in place on July 4

The limit – sparked by concern that partying young people are fuelling a flare-up – is a dramatic reduction on the maximum of 30 put in place on July 4

Those breaking the rules can expect a £100 fine from police, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200

Those breaking the rules can expect a £100 fine from police, which will then double on each repeat offence up to £3,200

Covid marshals have also been introduced in a bid to improve the enforcement capacity of local authorities

Covid marshals have also been introduced in a bid to improve the enforcement capacity of local authorities

Apart from a vaccine, Mr Johnson said the only other way out before Christmas was a 'moonshot' of introducing mass daily testing for everyone, but admitted that would require 'everything to come together'

Apart from a vaccine, Mr Johnson said the only other way out before Christmas was a ‘moonshot’ of introducing mass daily testing for everyone, but admitted that would require ‘everything to come together’

In a direct plea to young people, Mr Johnson said that they should consider their behaviour 'for the sake of your parents' and your grandparents' health'

In a direct plea to young people, Mr Johnson said that they should consider their behaviour ‘for the sake of your parents’ and your grandparents’ health’

Prof Whitty said the numbers of coronavirus case have been increasing 'much more rapidly' over the past few days. While the numbers among older people and children remained 'flat', in other age groups there were 'rapid upticks'

Prof Whitty said the numbers of coronavirus case have been increasing ‘much more rapidly’ over the past few days. While the numbers among older people and children remained ‘flat’, in other age groups there were ‘rapid upticks’

He said among 17 to 18 year-olds and 19 to 21 year-olds the numbers had gone up 'really quite steeply' since mid August

He said among 17 to 18 year-olds and 19 to 21 year-olds the numbers had gone up ‘really quite steeply’ since mid August

A particularly smug Ned Flanders from The Simpsons matched this user's idea of a Covid marshal

A particularly smug Ned Flanders from The Simpsons matched this user’s idea of a Covid marshal

The Office's Gareth Keenan was a popular reference point for those mocking the idea

The Office’s Gareth Keenan was a popular reference point for those mocking the idea

Prof Whitty said that data suggested that without action Britain would be on a path 'extremely similar' to France where the numbers have continued to rise - cautioning that the situation was likely to be perilous all the way through to Spring

Prof Whitty said that data suggested that without action Britain would be on a path ‘extremely similar’ to France where the numbers have continued to rise – cautioning that the situation was likely to be perilous all the way through to Spring

Government sources have voiced gloom about a 'difficult six months' to come. One official cautioned that it was not a scenario of 'a couple of weeks and we're back to where we were', saying the R number was 'clearly above one'

Government sources have voiced gloom about a ‘difficult six months’ to come. One official cautioned that it was not a scenario of ‘a couple of weeks and we’re back to where we were’, saying the R number was ‘clearly above one’

Mr Johnson said he was 'sorry' that larger households would not be able to meet up, as they would be above the six-person threshold

Mr Johnson said he was ‘sorry’ that larger households would not be able to meet up, as they would be above the six-person threshold

A displeased Sir Keir Starmer was also used in reaction to the Prime Minister's announcement

A displeased Sir Keir Starmer was also used in reaction to the Prime Minister’s announcement

Prof Whitty said the numbers of coronavirus case have been increasing ‘much more rapidly’ over the past few days. While the numbers among older people and children remained ‘flat’, in other age groups there were ‘rapid upticks’.

He said among 17 to 18 year-olds and 19 to 21 year-olds the numbers had gone up ‘really quite steeply’ since mid August. 

He said that data suggested that without action Britain would be on a path ‘extremely similar’ to France where the numbers have continued to rise – cautioning that the situation was likely to be perilous all the way through to Spring.

Government sources have voiced gloom about a ‘difficult six months’ to come. One official cautioned that it was not a scenario of ‘a couple of weeks and we’re back to where we were’, saying the R number was ‘clearly above one’.

Mr Johnson said he was ‘sorry’ that larger households would not be able to meet up, as they would be above the six-person threshold. 

‘But as your PM I must do what it takes to stop the spread of the virus,’ he added.  

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