Police will be 'more robust' during third lockdown
- Credit: Archant
Police chiefs have insisted officers will "be more robust" in dealing with breaches of coronavirus restrictions as the country begins another national lockdown.
The latest tough restrictions, announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday night (January 4) came into effect on Wednesday (January 6) in a bid to try and relieve pressure on the NHS amid rising coronavirus figures.
Norfolk's temporary assistant chief constable Julie Wvendth has warned people across Norfolk that police would be more robust in enforcing lockdown restrictions.
She said: "Our stance now will be one of being more robust.
“We will still turn up and engage with people but actually where we see blatant breaches of regulations we will be enforcing that.
“We’ve got to a point where people are well aware of the requirements on them so we will be more robust with that.”
In October last year three UEA students, two women, both 20, and a third woman, 19, were fined £10,000 each after police were called to a house party on Bowthorpe Road, Norwich attended by about 100 revellers.
Miss Wvendth confirmed there would be more high visibility patrols out in the streets following the latest lockdown, stating:
"The stance at the moment is to try and increase visibility.”
Police will be working with local authorities to identify “hot spot areas”, where there are rising coronavirus cases or where there have previously been significant breaches in the past.
In those hot spot areas more officers would be out on the streets working to ensure the lockdown was being observed.
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Miss Wvendth said there had been a “steady rise” in Covid-related calls to Norfolk Police since the county was put into Tier 4 on Boxing Day, a lot of which had been "members of the community breaching regulations and reporting it to us”.
In terms of people travelling to other parts of the county to exercise, Miss Wvendth said the lockdown announcement did not restrict this.
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However, she said the force's advice was for people was to “stay more local” so as not to put pressure on other areas of the county and ultimately the NHS.
Miss Wvendth said: “We don’t have a power to stop people travelling to exercise but we would like people to think about it and stay local."
She added: "Following the announcement of a new national lockdown, we once again find ourselves living under strict conditions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“A new, more infectious variant, has led to a rapid surge in cases meaning many people will be making sacrifices to protect their loved ones and the wider community.
“People must stay at home and can only leave for a reasonable excuse, which includes shopping food, medicines, seeking medical treatment and providing care or help to a vulnerable person.
“As with all previous Public Health Regulations, we will have powers to fine people who break the rules."
Figures have revealed rising Covid-19 infection rates among people across the county, which has also been reflected in those, like police officers, who are "on the front-line every day".
She said currently about 7pc of the force’s work force were off sick, adding that a “a large part of that 7pc” included officers off due to covid-related issues.
Whether that was officers who were symptomatic and were having to self isolate or whether they had family members who were ill and were having to self-isolate as a result.
Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation which represents rank and file officers in the county, has called for officers to be added to the priority list for coronavirus vaccinations.
Miss Wvendth urged the public to adhere to the rules in order that “we can get back to a state of normality as soon as possible”.
She added: "We would urge the public to follow the rules and stay at home to help to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect the NHS.”
Norfolk's chief constable Simon Bailey has added his voice to calls for the public to adhere to the rules, particularly with a surge in cases linked to a new, more infectious strain of the virus.
Mr Bailey said: "The emergence of new, more transmissible strain of coronavirus has seen a rapid rise in positive cases across the country and here in Norfolk."
"There’s no doubt this will be our biggest challenge yet since the start of the pandemic and my message to the public is please work with us. Let’s do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus.
"We all have a part to play in keeping people safe, our friends, family and loved ones, as well as the wider community, many of whom will play essential roles in public services such as policing, health care and teaching.
"We know these are challenging times and that people are having to make great sacrifices in order to adhere to the restrictions, but the rising numbers of positive cases and deaths should serve as a stark reminder to us all of why these measures are in place.”