By Michael Holden
LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Britain brought in tough measures on Thursday to curb the spread of coronavirus and ensure people obey the government's virtual lockdown which many thousands are feared to have so far ignored.
The new powers allow police to issue instant fines those who leave their homes without good reason or gather in groups of more than two people.
In northern England, one police force has begun introducing random vehicle checkpoints to ensure the new rules are enforced while the head of the Church of England told Britons who were flouting the instructions to "get your act together".
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops to close, banned social gatherings and told people to stay at home unless they needed to buy food, go out to essential work or to exercise once a day.
While millions have respected the measures, roads and parks have remained busy, and the authorities across the country have repeatedly reported that people have not respected the 2 metre (6 foot) guidance on social distancing while others have continued to mingle.
On Thursday, a new regulations came into effect which give the authorities the power to impose 30-pound fixed penalty on those who breach the rules. Repeat offenders could ultimately receive a fine of up to 960 pounds and might be arrested.
Those who did not pay up could be taken to court, where magistrates could impose unlimited fines, the government said.
"The prime minister has been clear on what we need to do: stay at home to protect our NHS and save lives," said Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel. (Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)