In an attempt to tamp down on so-called nonessential public excursions amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, police in the United Kingdom are reportedly ramping up citation efforts.
According to an April 8 report from Edinburgh Live, a government guidance released on March 23 permits British residents to depart their places of residence only under a “very limited” set of circumstances, which includes essential grocery shopping, medical emergencies, exercise and work-related travel — and nothing else.
Scottish law enforcement officers are reportedly taking that order very seriously — so seriously, in fact, that they have begun fining locals for everything from supermarket snack runs to unapproved rides on public transportation.
The outlet reported that authorities have gone so far in attempting to enforce social distancing that shoppers have been asked to hand over their bags for routine search upon exiting the grocery store.
Those with items deemed “nonessential” run the risk of receiving a ticket.
A friend of my daughter was fined £30 on the spot in Edinburgh the other night having just bought wine and snacks, both of which are non-essential. Still seems a bit draconian to me.
— Iain Small (@Smally1969) April 4, 2020
One such shopper was confirmed by Edinburgh Live to have been fined £30 for being caught purchasing only wine and snacks on a single trip to the store.
This is not believed to have been an isolated occurrence, with another unnamed Scottish citizen reportedly “given a fine for buying a bottle of prosecco.”
A friend of the individual later called out local law enforcement over the incident on Twitter, writing, “Your officers went through her bag and fined her because that’s all she bought. May I remind you that alcohol is permitted to be bought and that your fascism is not on!”
Yet what is and is not considered an “essential” grocery item is not so black and white. No guidance has been given as to what foods should and should not be purchased at this time, leaving police with an extraordinary amount of discretion.
The outlet did suggest that authorities may not be abusing that discretion, however, instead fining the individuals in question for failure to comply with officer requests for identification or simple cooperation.