Independent SAGE member Professor Christina Pagel has criticised Priti Patel’s decision to issue new £800 fines for Covid rule-breakers, calling on the minster to “stop blaming the public”.
Prof Pagel told LBC radio she was “so angry” at the announcement and said ministers should instead focus on tightening Covid restrictions than fining people who break them.
“They’ve been doing this for weeks and weeks as if people just aren’t obeying the rules, that’s not what’s happening,” she said.
“The rules are just much laxer this time than they were in March. We’ve got loads more people going out to work, you can see that from Facebook mobility data, Google mobility data, TfL data. We’ve got more kids in school, we’ve got more shops allowed to be open.
“If they don’t want people to go out and transmit the virus, change the rules and stop blaming people.”
When the presenter countered that some appreciated the government crackdown, Prof Pagel responded: “But it’s: what do you choose to highlight in a time when we have the world’s worst death rate? You’re highlighting a tiny minority of people doing things which are already against the rules.
“Instead of actually saying people are keeping to the rules, perhaps we have to be a bit stricter about how many kids are in school, about workplaces.
“Are we actually helping people to stay at home if they’re sick? We know that low-income people are less likely to get tests because they can’t afford to isolate.”
She urged ministers to “deal with the actual problem instead of trying to have these big headlines about house parties when that’s just not the issue” and questioned how the public are meant to follow government guidelines when No 10 never “learns from their mistakes” or “admits when they’ve made a mistake”.
Reacting to the latest announcement, Prof Pagel wrote on Twitter: “Oi Priti et al – STOP BLAMING THE PUBLIC! illegal parties are rare! large majority people complying. YOU have allowed people to do far more than in Spring. Blame the rules not the public.
“Oh and pay people properly to isolate so that they can afford to get tested and stay home.”
Oi Priti et al – STOP BLAMING THE PUBLIC! illegal parties are rare! large majority people complying. YOU have allowed people to do far more than in Spring. Blame the rules not the public.
Oh and pay people properly to isolate so that they can afford to get tested & stay home.
— Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) January 21, 2021
On Thursday, the government announced people attending illegal house parties would face a new £800 fine from next week that could rise to £6,400 for repeat offenders.
These fines will be issued to people attending illegal indoor gatherings of 15 people or more.