Have nation’s police made us feel guilty for going outside during coronavirus lockdown?

PUBLISHED: 08:39 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:49 02 April 2020

A police patrol stops to speak to a cyclist in Richmond Park on Tuesday  as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus

A police patrol stops to speak to a cyclist in Richmond Park on Tuesday as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus

We’re allowed to go out for essential reasons but, Rachel Moore says, some police forces seem to be a little to heavy handed in enforcing lockdown rules

What bothers me more than anything about the current lockdown is how quickly we’ve slipped into what’s starting to feel like a police state.

Our once free, liberal, tolerant and open country has shifted swiftly to a quasi-authoritarian regime based on shaming, snooping, sneaking and arbitrary interpretation of right and wrong.

A friend who lived in Moscow in the 1980s told me this week that she suddenly felt back behind the Iron Curtain, in a community where no one trusted anyone, people were spying and reporting on their neighbours, with police assuming enforcement powers and intimidation that we have never known.

Even people obediently taking their daily Boris-ordered hour-a-day exercise – how quickly that became the ‘law’. Very North Korea – act as if they’re on a furtive mission, making no eye contact, or a cheery greeting, staring at the ground as they pass at the statutory two metre distance.

My friend was feeling uncomfortable leaving her village home every day to drop her key worker son off for his shift and picking him up again later, feeling her comings and goings were being monitored by neighbours.

Sights of a drone hovering over lone dog walkers in remote Peak District beauty spots and police shaming them on social media for rule breaking don’t help.

Nor do drones loudly ordering people to disperse because it picked up a ‘gathering’, a properly distanced queue for a pharmacy, not stating Easter eggs in shops are not essential items and putting bunches of daffodils in with the weekly shop falls outside the rules.

This type of surveillance and statement just fuels people posting photos on social media of strange cars outside their neighbours’ homes. Jumping to conclusions and dobbing in has quickly become second nature, regardless of the truth

South Wales Police were disgraceful on Sunday for condemning on Twitter MP Stephen Kinnock’s visit to his parents to mark his father, former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock’s 78th birthday by sitting in their front garden for a “socially distanced celebration.”

Mr Kinnock’s Twitter photo clearly showed them way away, after he had delivered supplies.

But, in an over-reaction, the force stated his visit was “non-essential: “We urge you to comply with government restrictions, they are in place to keep us all safe.”

The inconsistency of police actions and their different interpretation of government guidance in the name of stopping the spread of Covid-19 have been particularly concerning.

Lone walkers in the countryside are condemned, while in London travellers are still crammed on to tube trains and station platforms, and planes are arriving from all over the world every day, with no testing for people who move straight into our towns and cities.

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Lancashire police has issued 123 enforcement notices in the last week while Bedfordshire police has issued none.

They have no legal authority to stop individuals walking a dog in the Lake District.

Heavy-handed reactions and interpreting guidance as law is a sure-fire way to invoke civil unrest and encourage net curtain twitchers, leaving people fearful to live their lives within the restrictions as best they can.

It’s horrible that people feel furtive just being outside.

We all need to use our common sense while police forces need to get their act together.

Dispersing a gaggle of young people who should be at home is one thing, walking your dog after a drive to a remote area or a beach is another, especially if you live in a densely populated area where everyone is out walking their dogs and exercising and you’re more socially distanced to get away.

As long as they don’t stop the wonderful scenes of daily dancing in the street sessions Twitter has been showing on a road in the North West led by a resident fitness instructor. She has got everyone, from children to the elderly, on to their drives for a daily dance off. These people barely nodded hello before.

Police have a responsibility to support and encourage people to do the right thing and not to make a terrible situation worse than it is.

NEW NORMAL: On our Boris-bike ride on Saturday, we scooted past Waitrose near Norwich for the essentials my partner had forgotten on an earlier mission.

Allowing one person in the store at a time, a queue of people, perfectly spaced at two metres apart, snaked around the car park in silence.

Abandoning our place for someone in greater need, a man in front, in a stage whisper hissed conspiratorially: “Sainsbury’s aren’t making you queue so you could try there but they’re limiting the amount of wine you can buy, so it’s swings and roundabouts.” Our new normal.

KEEP COURSES FREE: A plea from the golf community – and golf widows. Please don’t use currently unused (private property) golf courses for your daily exercise hour.

Depriving golfers of their regular fixes of walking miles around wonderfully kept golf courses is causing enough grumpiness. Discovering the pristine courses they pay handsomely to play on used as playgrounds or dog walking routes is just making it worse.

Bunkers are not giant sandpits for children to play in, as tempting as they might be because there’s lots of space. Golf courses are still out of bounds in our strange world.

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