Majority listening, say police, but rules may be enforced if ignored

PUBLISHED: 15:55 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:56 27 March 2020

A woman walks along St Helens Street in Ipswich in a mask  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A woman walks along St Helens Street in Ipswich in a mask Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Police have thanked the ‘vast majority’ for heeding advice on reducing the spread of COVID-19 – but warn officers may enforce new powers against anyone putting others at risk.

Suffolk Constabulary said officers would continue to police by consent after the government introduced new regulations to ensure people stay at home and avoid non-essential travel.

People should only leave home to shop for basic necessities, for one form of exercise a day, for any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person to and from work, but only where they cannot work from home.

Gatherings of more than two people are only permitted in very limited circumstances, such as for essential work purposes.

Police can issue a fine of £60 – or £30 if paid within 14 days – to those who do not comply.

People may be arrested, where proportionate and necessary, for a continued refusal to comply.

A spokesman said officers will engage and explain the circumstances, and encourage people to do the right thing in complying with guidance.

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“If considered necessary, we may take enforcement action if people are not listening and putting others at risk,” they said.

“Officers will apply discretion and will ask questions to establish individual circumstances.

“We will instruct people to go home if they do not have a good reason to be outdoors.”

This week, Cambridgeshire police urged people to visit the national coronavirus website following an increase in calls to its control room for clarification on issues related to restrictions.

Suffolk has not confirmed such a rise, but echoed its neighbours’ advice, adding: “We do not want anything to jeopardise the service police provide in emergencies, which is what our contact and control room is there for.”

Meanwhile, daily guidance is being given to officers and staff via the intranet, email and verbal briefings to keep them informed and minimise any health risks.

“Maintaining the best service to the public, protecting officers and staff, and supporting the nationwide response are our top priorities,” added a spokesman.

“We’re in this together and everyone has a role to play by following government advice. The vast majority are listening, and we thank them for this.

“Be tolerant and supportive of each other, and we will get through this together.”

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