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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - FAQs

As of 00.01am on Tuesday 5 January 2021, the whole of England is now in national lockdown. You cannot leave or be outside of the place you are living unless you have a reasonable excuse – we are again being instructed to stay at home where possible. Please ensure that you are adhering to Government regulations at all times.

Police officers will be engaging, explaining and encouraging people to follow the restrictions. Anyone who knowingly breaks the rules should expect to receive a Fixed Penalty Notice.

To get the latest information, please make sure that you continue to visit the Government website (opens in a new window) for the latest official guidance and announcements.

Quick links

Do I need to stay at home?
Can I meet up with people outside of my household?
What are the exceptions for gathering indoors?
What happens if I break the rules?
What businesses need to close?
Report a business in breach of COVID-19 regulations
Report a person or group of people breaching COVID-19 regulations
When am I required to wear face coverings?
Will police still be giving out Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)?
What crimes have you stopped responding to? Will you stop arresting people?
I called 101 and received a text message asking to participate in a survey – is this legitimate?
How can I provide feedback and suggestions on what my local policing unit should be focusing on?
How are you protecting officers?
Can I still apply for a firearms or explosives licence?
What measures should I be taking to help protect myself from coronavirus?
Can I still register as a foreign national?


Do I need to stay at home?

We are in a national lockdown. This means you must not leave or be outside of your home or garden except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’.  A reasonable excuse includes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person.
  • Going to work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home.
  • Exercising with your household (or support bubble) or one other person (this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area).
  • Meeting your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.
  • Seeking medical assistance or avoiding injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • Attending education or childcare.

For an exhaustive list and for further information, please consult the Government website (opens in a new window).


Can I meet up with people outside of my household?

It is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble. You can only leave your home to exercise, and not for the purpose of recreation or leisure (e.g. a picnic or a social meeting). This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

You can exercise in a public outdoor place:

  • by yourself
  • with the people you live with
  • with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
  • in a childcare bubble where providing childcare
  • or, when on your own, with one person from another household

Public outdoor places include:

  • parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
  • public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • playgrounds

Outdoor sports venues, including tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools, will be closed.

When you are around other people, stay two metres apart from anyone not in your household - meaning the people you live with - or your support bubble (opens in a new window). Where this is not possible, stay one metre apart with extra precautions (e.g. wearing a face covering).

You should minimise time spent outside your home. When around other people, stay two metres apart from anyone not in your household - meaning the people you live with - or your support bubble (opens in a new window). Where this is not possible, stay one metre apart with extra precautions (e.g. wearing a face covering). You must not meet socially indoors with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble.


What are the exceptions for gathering indoors?

There are still circumstances in which you are allowed to meet others from outside your household, childcare or support bubble in larger groups, but this should not be for socialising and only for permitted purposes. A full list of these circumstances will be included in the regulations, and includes:

  • for work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, where it is unreasonable to do so from home. This can include work in other people’s homes where necessary - for example, for nannies, cleaners, social care workers providing support to children and families, or tradespeople. See guidance on working safely in other people’s homes (opens in a new window). Where a work meeting does not need to take place in a private home or garden, it should not - for example, although you can meet a personal trainer, you should do so in a public outdoor place.
  • in a childcare bubble (opens in a new window)      (for the purposes of childcare only)
  • Where eligible to use these services, for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children. Access to education and childcare facilities is restricted. See further information on education and childcare (opens in a new window).
  • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
  • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
  • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
  • to place or facilitate the placing of a child or children in the care of another by social services
  • for birth partners
  • to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • to see someone who is dying
  • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
  • for gatherings within criminal justice accommodation or immigration detention centres
  • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable (opens in a new window), or to provide respite for a  carer
  • for a wedding or equivalent ceremony in exceptional circumstances and only for up to six people
  • for funerals - up to a maximum of 30 people. Wakes and other linked ceremonial events can continue in a group of up to six people.
  • to visit someone at home who is dying, or to visit someone receiving treatment in a hospital, hospice or care home, or to accompany a family member or friend to a medical appointment
  • for elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) - or those on an official elite sports pathway - to compete and train
  • to facilitate a house move

Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support - but they must take place at a premises other than a private home. Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the limit, if they are there for work, and the officiant at a wedding would not count towards the limit.


What happens if I break the rules?

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, you will receive a fine of £10,000.


What businesses need to close?

To reduce social contact, the regulations require some businesses to close and impose restrictions on how some businesses provide goods and services. The full list of businesses required to close can be found on the Gov UK website (opens in a new window), but includes:

  • non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services.
  • hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.
  • accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific      circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes.
  • leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts, fitness and dance studios, riding arenas at riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses.
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries,      casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks.
  • animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife reserves).
  • indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise.
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes.
  • community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services.

More information on reporting a business in breach of COVID-19 regulations.


Report a business in breach of COVID-19 regulations

You can report a business in breach of COVID-19 regulations online (opens in a new window).

Please ensure you understand the Government's guidance (opens in a new window) before you report a possible breach. If you’re not sure which district you’re in, you can use the county council's postcode finder (opens in a new window).


Report a person or group of people breaching COVID-19 regulations

If you need to report someone who is breaching the COVD-19 regulations, you can do so online (opens in a new window). Please bear in mind that we will not be able to dispatch officers to all instances of the rules being breached. 


When am I required to wear face coverings?

As a rule of thumb, you should wear a face covering whenever you are in a situation that requires you to be in close contact (or less than 2m away) from other people. Places you must wear a face covering to, unless you are exempt, are (this list is not exhaustive):

  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses).
  • taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs).
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals).
  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire).
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets).
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses.
  • funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels).
  • places of worship.

You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.

You should also wear a face covering in indoor places not listed here where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people outside of your household.

Wearing a face covering will provide you with additional protection when you are not able to adhere to the two-metre social distancing guidelines. The responsibility for wearing a face mask lies with individuals – however, should you not wear a face covering, shops and supermarkets can refuse you entry. Under new legislation, people who do not wear a face covering may face a fine of up to £100. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities are exempt. For more information, visit the Government website (opens in a new window).

People wearing face coverings are still strongly advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting one on or taking it off, avoid taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession, store it in a plastic bag in between washes or wearing, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing one.

Please remember that wearing a face covering does not mean you can be lax with social distancing or hygiene measures. While they offer you additional protection, they do not mean you are fully protected. Please continue to keep adhering to the social distancing policies, and following the appropriate hygiene measures to help stop the spread of the virus.


Will police still be giving out Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)?

Our policing strategy in response to COVID-19 remains the same: in the first instance our officers will always apply their common sense and discretion and seek to engage, explain and encourage. Where individuals refuse to comply, or repeatedly breach the regulations, knowingly breaking the rules and therefore endangering lives, our officers are ready to enforce the regulations as the public would expect us to do. Purposely not complying with the government legislation – such as refusing to wear a face covering in a shop or supermarket, or while using public transport – will result in you receiving an FPN.


What crimes have you stopped responding to? Will you stop arresting people?

There are no crime types that we do not respond to and police officers will make arrests as necessary. Each contact to the police for help is risk assessed appropriately. We’re asking the public to be patient as we may take more time to follow up report relating to lower-level crimes.


I called 101 and received a text message asking to participate in a survey – is this legitimate?

If you do call our Force Communications Room (FCR) to report a crime or incident, please be aware that you may receive a text from us afterwards asking how we did. We know that due to the current increase in text and online scams this may cause some concern, so we just wanted to inform you that this is a legitimate follow-up message from us asking you to rate the service you received so we can continue to learn and improve. 


How can I provide feedback and suggestions on what my local policing unit should be focusing on?

If you want to pass on your thoughts about policing in the county or your local area, you can utilise our community voice service ‘echo’. Tell us what you think we should be prioritising, or what you are concerned about in your local area. Simply visit the echo website (opens in a new window) and have your say. This is completely anonymous, but if you’re talking about your local area please be as specific as you possibly can. Please be aware that this is NOT a platform for reporting crime. Echo feedback is used to set our local policing priorities, and strengthen our relationship with the public by listening to what they want.


How are you protecting officers?

Police forces are following guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Officers and staff will adhere to this guidance, wearing face masks or face coverings when they are out on patrol in a public-facing manner.

We are working closely with the Government and PHE to manage supplies of PPE like gloves and masks. Questions around stocks of these should be directed to PHE and the Government.


Can I still apply for a firearms or explosives licence? 

The Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire firearms licensing department has taken the decision to temporarily suspend the processing of new grant applications from 5 November 2020 in order to protect the public and our staff. This will be reviewed in early January 2021.  If your application is essential due to occupational needs, please contact us.  If your application is not essential, please do not submit new grant applications until further notice; any applications received will not be dealt with until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. All other services which do not require a visit are running as normal.

Please continue to notify us of weapon transactions and changes of addresses, we will process them as staffing and priorities allow – please do not email us to chase progress at this time.

  • Grant applications – due to social distancing restrictions we are unable able to process any grant applications. We ask that you consider waiting until restrictions are lifted prior to applying. Any that we do receive will not be actioned.
  • Variations – if you require a variation please submit it. Most variations do not require a visit so we may be able to process it and will contact you if we cannot.
  • Renewal – our priority is to ensure current holders do not expire. In order to assist us in these challenging times, please continue to renew but do not email or telephone the office to enquire on progress of your renewal. We are dealing with renewals according to expiry date (NOT date received) and, of course, are aware of the status of all holders.

Find out more about firearms and explosives licensing


What measures should I be taking to help protect myself from coronavirus?

You should continue to follow strict hygiene measures, washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitiser, wear a face covering where necessary and continue to follow social distancing measures. Remember, ‘Hands. Face. Space’:

  • hands: wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
  • face: wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • space: stay two metres apart from  people you do not live with where possible, or one metre with extra  precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings).

Can I still register as a foreign national?

New registrations are continuing.  However, due to essential travel restrictions, do not attend to report changes in your circumstances until this site informs you of any changes.

This will not affect your immigration status and no penalty will be given for being unable to tell us about a change in your circumstances during these unprecedented times. 

All foreign national registrations and updates for Hertfordshire county will only be dealt with at Hatfield Police Station, Comet Way, Hatfield, AL10 9SJ on Thursdays between 8am to 1pm (not including Bank Holidays).  You may be asked to wait outside reception if social distancing cannot be observed.

You do not need an appointment, just simply turn up with your documentation any Thursday between 8am to 1pm.

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