Members of the public who refuse to don masks when out in certain spaces are to set be slapped with a £200 fine from their very first offence under new Covid police powers.
According to reports from the Telegraph, this penalty will double with each offence, meaning it will be £400 the second time someone is caught, and £800 the third.
Fines will increase right up to a whopping £6,400 — although those who pay in the first two weeks will earn themselves a 50% reduction.
The heavy-handed measures come after Boris Johnson unveiled sweeping changes to England's previously light-touch coronavirus rules on Saturday in light of the terrifying new Omicron variant, which has threatened to wreck Christmas plans and potentially send the country into a new lockdown.
He confirmed that mask-wearing would again become a legal requirement on public transport and in shops across the land this week, after previously being lifted in July.
A change to the law will go through Parliament on Monday before the new rules are enforced on Tuesday, according to the newspaper.
However, pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will not be included under requirements, with enforcement remaining at the discretion of the owners.
Government ministers were said to have been thrown into a panicked frenzy this week after more details about the new strain from South Africa began to leak through, which scientists have conceded could be the 'worst we've seen yet'.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid staunchly defended the re-introduction of mask requirements on Sunday, telling Sky News: “Doing it in this proportionate way where it's for public transport, it's for retail outlets, I think is the right level of response on masks.
“It will be via government regulation and that means, I think, that people will take it seriously."
Two cases of the Omicron variant feared to have higher re-infection rates have been detected in Brentwood, Essex and Nottingham, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed.
Both cases are believed to be exclusively connected and linked to travel to southern Africa.
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