Lockdown crackdown: Police on streets to enforce social distancing
PUBLISHED: 12:21 28 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:48 28 March 2020
Norfolk police have begun enforcing strict social distancing laws aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Officers were out on the beat in places including Cromer on Saturday morning to make sure people were only leaving their homes when necessary and keeping their distance from others when they were out on the street and in the few shops that are still open.
PC Joey Mezzetti, Cromer beat manager, said people were getting the message.
He said: “I did speak to one group of people who were sitting on the wall at the church, huddled quite close together. They were unaware of the rules but as soon as we spoke, they understood and went home.
“People are taking note and they are doing the right thing.”
PC Mezzetti and a fellow PC began their rounds at the town’s Morrisons supermarket, which is only letting in a limited number of shoppers at a time and has new markings at the tills to ensure shoppers were standing apart.
They then patrolled Cromer’s esplanade and high street, which he said were far quieter than last weekend - partly due to the colder weather.
PC Mezzetti said: “There were a lot of people here last weekend - it was like a bank holiday.”
Anyone breaking the new laws can be fined £60 - or £30 if paid within a fortnight - but PC Mezzetti said they had thankfully not yet had to issue any.
He said: “Parents can be fined as well if their children are going against what they should be doing. But we don’t want to fine anyone - we’d rather just encourage people to do the right thing.”
Last weekend Norfolk’s coastal beauty spots including Winterton were busy with visitors eager for a day out after many shops, eateries and pubs closed.
This led to overcrowding - exactly what the government and health authorities wanted to avoid.
To combat crowding in north Norfolk the district council this week took the decision to close its coastal car parks as well as fence off Cromer Pier.
PC Mezzetti said the guidance from the government had also become clearer - for example, that people should not be driving to popular locations to take their one daily walk for exercise which is allowed under the new rules.
He said the only reasons for people to be in their cars were for essential work and shopping for food and essential supplies for themselves or for vulnerable people.
He said: “Other than that, you shouldn’t really be out in your car.
“We are still seeing a lot of traffic on the roads but it’s difficult to police what they’re doing.
“Over the past two or three days it has become a lot clearer what you are supposed to be doing, and people are adhering to that a lot more.”
Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk police, said: “These are probably the most draconian measures this country has ever seen, but they are being done for all the right reasons.
“We all have a responsibility to respect that scientific advice and the prime minister’s very difficult decision and to self isolate, and to only go out for the examples which have been very clearly set out.
“If we do not do that we are putting people’s lives at risk. We will simply extend the duration of this crisis and the NHS will become overwhelmed.”
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