British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that an army of marshals will be tasked with enforcing social gathering rules in towns and cities throughout the UK, as the Tory leader insisted a spike in cases left him with no other option than to tighten lockdown rules.

The ‘Covid-secure marshals’ will disband groups of more than six, and alert police if fines should be issued, patrolling shopping centres, parks and other public areas where crowds often congregate, whilst also making sure people wear face-masks on public transport.

Johnson said former environmental health officers will also be asked to monitor social distancing and contact tracing measures adopted in pubs.

“We will boost the local enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing Covid-secure marshals to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres, and by setting up a register of environmental health officers that local authorities can draw upon for support,” he told a press conference yesterday.

The marshals, who will be employed by local councils, will supplement the work already being carried out by a stretched police force. The Local Government Association welcomed the additional manpower, but called for more clarity on the role of marshals.

“These measures will mean they can act quickly and proactively in cracking down on places that flout COVID-19 guidance, to prevent problems in the first place instead of only being able to act when it is too late,” chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board Cllr Nesil Caliskan said.

“We need to quickly see further detail on how the Government’s COVID-19 Secure Marshal scheme is intended to work, and any new responsibilities for councils in this area will have to be fully funded.”

“Most hospitality businesses are working hard, supported by councils, to ensure they comply with COVID-19 rules. However, some premises are not collecting contact details of customers so they can be reached in the event of a local outbreak.”

“This is clearly a danger to communities and puts people at risk of infection, so it is good that this will become mandatory as councils have called for.”

The restriction on gatherings to a maximum of six people will apply both indoors and outdoors, coming into effect from Monday.