Neighbours are inundating the police 101 and 999 lines reporting people for flouting the new lockdown rules.
The National Police Chief’s Council says calls are flooding in from people keen to report others for not following the new laws, which came into force on Thursday.
People are now only allowed to leave their house for very limited reasons – essential work, essential shopping, exercise once a day and medical needs.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said police would be dealing with the alleged offences ‘proportionately’, reports The Independent.
Mr Hewitt said: “We are not in normal times, we are in a time of national crisis and we need people to adjust their behaviour.”
Police can now issue on-the-spot fines for breaking the rules, order people to return home and arrest those who fail to comply.
Fines have already been issued to a number of people caught risking the public by failing to follow the law, and enforcement notices have been issued on businesses which refused to shut down.
Police officers have been given powers to fine people for breaking public health regulations brought in by the government to prevent the spread of the virus, and arrest people for not complying with orders if necessary.
The fines can be almost £1,000 for repeat offenders against the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and similar laws in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen said: “We are not looking to criminalise people but we have to have some way of enforcing it.”
Police have seen a rise in racist offences against people of Asian origin, shoplifting and the use of coughing as a weapon.
There has been an increase in coronavirus scam attacks and there is a fear domestic and child abuse could rise.
People who deliberately cough on emergency workers could be jailed for up to two years.