More than a dozen people in Essex have been fined for refusing to wear a face mask.

Essex Police dished out 19 fixed penalty notices to people for failing to wear a mask between March 27 last year and February 14.

New data from the National Police Chiefs' Council also shows that only eight fines have been issued to people found to have held a gathering of more than 30 people - the punishment for this is a fine of up to £10,000.

There have been eight fines issued in Essex over the breaching of international travel regulations, and a further 12 given to business owners for breaching restrictions.

Essex Police issued 961 Covid fines between March 27 and February 14, the data shows.

In England and Wales, 68,952 fines had been issued over the breaking of Covid rules up to February 14.

Of these, 26,277 were processed between the end of the last reporting period, from January 17 to February 14.


Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: "We are still in a really dangerous stage of a pandemic which has killed more than 120,000 people.

"Eleven months on and back into a national lockdown, the rules are really clear and so it is frustrating that we still have a small number of completely defiant and irresponsible people who have no regard for the safety of themselves or others.

"While we are still following our four E model of engage, explain, encourage and only using enforcement as a last resort, officers are not getting into a debate or discussion with these people about what the rules are or whether they are necessary. We all know we must wear a face covering in a shop or on a bus and we all know we can’t meet up in groups.

"We’re taking a common sense approach, applying discretion and judgement when engaging with the public. But common sense would dictate that someone having a party is well aware what they are doing is wrong and has made an informed decision to do it anyway.

"Our extra dedicated patrols across the country will continue to support those of us making significant sacrifices in following the rules by taking enforcement action against those who are not."

The NPCC revealed that 272 £10,000 fines for organising gatherings of more than 30 people had been handed out across England and Wales during the pandemic, with events including unlicensed music events, protests and private parties.

Mr Hewitt also said there had been a concerning rise in the number of assaults on emergency workers, with the figure for the year up to February 14, 2021, 14 per cent higher than the year before.

He said: "We are still seeing people threatening to infect officers with the virus and coughing or spitting on them. This is disgusting and anyone who does this can expect to be arrested and prosecuted."

Face coverings are currently mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport under rules introduced to limit the risk of spreading infection.

Certain groups such as children under the age of 11 and people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, are exempt from these rules.