Ahead of a springtime weekend with warmer weather forecast, the police and other agencies are warning the public not to treat the coronavirus lockdown as some kind of lengthy holiday period, and certainly not to set off for parks and open spaces with your picnic baskets to hand.
The Shirley Hills this week became Croydon’s version of the Peak District, with police patrols politely but firmly ordering drivers of motor vehicles to turn round and return home. The edict about daily exercise during the pandemic lockdown does not permit the public to drive their cars to their favourite beauty spot or hiking area.
The Home Office issued guidance last week to deal with social distancing requirements during the pandemic, strengthening police enforcement powers in England to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
They were acting on the Home Office rules to eliminate “non-essential travel”.
According to the Home Office, if members of the public do not comply, the police may:
- instruct them to go home, leave an area or disperse
- ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking these rules
- issue a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days
- issue a fixed penalty notice of £120 for second-time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence
And the Home Office says, “Individuals who do not pay a fixed penalty notice under the regulations could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.”
One of the officers from the Addington Safer Neighbourhood team explained the police’s actions on social media on Wednesday.
Referring to “some of the confusion regarding the lockdown”, they wrote: “Your Safer Neighbourhood Team have been up at Shirley Hills engaging with, encouraging and educating motorists this week.
“Shirley Hills is most definitely open for local residents, as long as you walk, cycle, or run there (as per the government’s guidelines).
“You must not travel unless absolutely necessary. We don’t want to encourage people to travel from further afield. This is to prevent the spread of covid-19 and protect the vulnerable.
“By assisting us with this and by following the guidelines set by the government you are all taking a positive and active role in fighting the coronavirus.”
Yet despite the clear instructions about social distancing, some groups of people have continued to congregate on Purley Way Fields to use park exercise equipment – even though it has been taped off as “closed” by the council, because of coronavirus’s ability to be spread simply by touching the metal equipment.
This may also explain the decision of the council lock up the tennis courts at Grangewood and Norwood Lakes – it’s not just Wimbledon that has been cancelled for the foreseeable.
Such withdrawal of facilities is likely to be hard-felt by the public this weekend, with temperatures expected to soar to 20 degrees by Sunday, potentially encouraging more people to go outside and escape their growing sense of “cabin fever” after enduring a fortnight of the covid-19 lockdown.
With efforts to reduce the spread of the virus appearing to be reasonably successful so far, yet with the death toll from coronavirus continuing to grow daily, the authorities are anxious to remind people of their public duty in the emergency.
“Don’t let this weekend’s fantastic weather do more harm than good,” was the message issued on behalf of what was once known as the London Development Agency.
“Many people in London are not lucky enough to have a garden, many families are living in very cramped conditions. Our public spaces are becoming more and more important as the restrictions go on.
“As some parks have had to take the difficult decision to close down, it is essential, that we all work together in making sure we can keep as much open as possible.
“Please don’t ignore the very clear instructions – go out once a day, stay as local as possible, don’t gather in groups, keep your two-metre distance, take litter home, and keep dogs under control and on a lead in areas where you are told to do so.
“It’s clearly not ok to have picnics, sunbathe, or to cycle where it is not allowed.”
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