Priti Patel’s neighbours were split today over her vow to snitch on them for flouting the government’s new draconian Covid ‘Rule of Six’.
The Home Secretary wants to turn us into a nation of narks and said she would report any behaviour she believed was ‘inappropriate’ and risked spreading the virus.
But some residents living down her road in Bexley, South East London, said it’s better to go and have a quiet word with your neighbour than curtain-twitchers phoning the council to ‘grass them up’ for breaking the restrictions.
Steve Elmes, 52, a university lecturer who lives a few doors down from the family home Priti shares with her lawyer husband Alex Sawyer, said: ‘As Home Secretary, Priti Patel would have no choice but to inform the authorities if she caught anyone breaking the rules. I get that.
Residents living on Priti Patel’s street in Bexley, South East London, have been left split over her vow to snitch on them for flouting the government’s new draconian Covid ‘Rule of Six’
Paul Veal, 50, a carer, said he would have a word with his neighbours but would not go to the authorities
‘Part of me feels a moral obligation to do the same but I’m not about Big Brother or government or snitching on people.
‘I’m not one for phoning the council or police. ‘I’d probably go and speak to my neighbour in a calm and measured way if I caught them out.’
Paul Veal, 50, a carer, said he would keep an eye on his neighbours but would not go to the authorities.
He said: ‘If I saw one of my neighbours with more than six of their relatives I’d probably go round and have a word with them later and explain that I didn’t agree with what they’re doing.
‘But I come from a background where you don’t grass on people so for me it would be a quiet word and I wouldn’t go to the police like Priti Patel.
‘While I don’t agree with the new rule – how can it be right that I can’t meet up with more than six family or friends yet can sit in a pub all day with a load of strangers – I kind of understand where the government is coming from, they just need to be clearer.’
Ms Patel irritated critics by insisting that two families meeting by chance in the street and stopping to chat would constitute ‘mingling’ and breach the law.
Speaking to Sky News this morning Ms Patel said: ‘I’m rarely at home but if I saw something that I thought was inappropriate then, quite frankly, I would call the police
‘It’s not dobbing in neighbours, it’s all about us taking personal responsibility.’
Paula Hall-Strutt, 50, who works in accounts, said she understood why the restrictions had been put in place
Frances Owen, 66, said if one of her neighbours invited lots of people over to their home she would not hesitate to do the same as Priti Patel and contact the police or council
Faisal Aziz, 51, agreed with the Home Secretary and said he had no problem with her calling the police if he or any other neighbour had more than six people over
How to practice safe six
FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLDS
OFF: All gatherings of more than six people will be illegal, putting the traditional family Christmas at risk.
A family of five will be allowed to meet only one grandparent at a time, while families of six or more will be banned from meeting anyone.
ON: The only exemption is if a household or a support bubble is made up of more than six people.
Support bubbles allow adults who live by themselves – as well as single parents – to join up with one other household.
OFF: All social gatherings of more than six – whether a book club, dinner party or picnic – are banned.
Police will have the power to break up bigger groups in parks, pubs and private homes.
An army of ‘Covid marshals’ will be recruited by councils to step up enforcement, patrolling town centres, parks, shopping centres and train stations and encouraging large groups to break up.
People in groups of seven or more face spot fines of £100, doubling with each repeat offence to a maximum of £3,200.
OFF: Pubs or restaurants cannot seat more than six people at one table. Hospitality venues can still accept more than six people in total, but each group must be separate and kept a safe distance apart.
You cannot go to a pub in one group, then join another group. Venues face fines of £1,000 if they do not comply with the rules.
ON: Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples will remain open, although congregations will be required to stay at least a metre apart.
ON: Wedding ceremonies and receptions are exempt from the new rules, and up to 30 guests are allowed but they have to sit or stand a metre apart.
ON: Funerals are also exempt, with 30 people allowed.
ON: Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools will remain open, as long as they are ‘Covid secure’ and enforce social distancing rules. Yoga or exercise classes with more than six people are allowed.
ON: Grassroots sport is largely unaffected. Recreational sports, including five-a-side football, cricket, rugby and parkruns, can go ahead as long as they follow protocols. But teams of more than six can’t go for a post-match pint together.
ON: Professional sports and elite training can go ahead. Pilot events for reintroducing fans to stadiums can continue, but with a limit of 1,000 spectators.
SCHOOLS, CHILDCARE AND OFFICES
ON: Schools and universities are not affected by the new rules. But they must continue to operate under existing guidelines.
ON: Youth groups, registered childcare and playgroups are exempt from the rule of six.
OFF: The rules still apply outside these settings, so a group of ten school friends cannot go from the classroom to a park, or seven colleagues cannot go from the office to the pub.
ON: Protests can go ahead in groups larger than six, as long as they are ‘Covid secure’.
Ms Patel said it was a ‘personal choice’ on whether to report breaches but some residents living near her terraced home said they would do the same.
Paula Hall-Strutt, 50, who works in accounts said: ‘She is the Home Secretary so you’d expect her to do that and I would probably do the same – especially if the household had elderly relatives or if people were gathering in really big numbers.
‘My mum is 91-years-old and is particularly vulnerable to this virus so I fully understand why these restrictions have been put in place.
‘It’s important that we do all we can to try and get hold of it.
‘I think people around here use common sense and I don’t think anyone will break the Rule of Six.
‘I won’t be as I don’t really see that many people. My son has had friends round but he’s been very sensible about it.’
Frances Owen, 66, agreed and said: ‘If one of my neighbours had a big party and invited lots of people then I’d not hesitate to do the same as Priti Patel and I’d contact the police or council in a flash.
‘I know the new restrictions the government have brought in have caused a lot of upset and controversy but I believe we need to be as careful as we can.
‘It seems that at the moment it’s a lot of youngsters being quite blasé about Covid and it’s the older people who are going to suffer as a result and I don’t think it’s right.
‘So I have no problem with Priti Patel saying she’d snitch on us – I’d do the same.’
Lauren Hawney, 39, who works at a cafe at the end of Priti Patel’s street said: ‘I don’t think it’s right snitching on your own neighbours, I certainly wouldn’t do it to mine.
‘If a party of more than six people came in to the cafe, we wouldn’t ask them to leave but probably would seat them at different tables.
‘Personally I think this new rule of six is ridiculous because you can get on a train with about 30 or so people many of whom don’t have masks and sit in a pub with about 40 or 50 strangers yet you can’t meet up with more than six members of your own family.
‘I wouldn’t feel comfortable snooping on families living on my street and I’m not particularly pleased that Priti Patel has said that she would.’
Faisal Aziz, 51, said: ‘I’ve a 10-year-old daughter whose had a fever for the last two days and we are due to have a covid test later today.
‘So I agree with Priti Patel that we should all take responsibility and follow the rules.
‘I have no problem with her calling the police if I or any other neighbour had more than six people over.
‘However unlikely it is to happen, I’d do the same and call the police on her and her husband if they broke the rules.’
Following the Home Secretary’s strict measures MPs and police voiced their concerns about the restrictions being placed on the nation’s civil liberties.
When asked if ‘more guidance’ was needed during an appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: ‘Maybe we should have ‘guidance’, because we haven’t had any yet.’
Under the new regulations, which were published just before midnight on Sunday, ‘mingling’ in a large group is banned however larger gatherings are permitted for work, childcare or political protests.
Recreational sports, including five-a-side football, cricket, rugby and park runs, can also continue provided people follow the protocols.
Those who breach the guidelines could face fines of £100, rising to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offenders.