POLICE are warning that people are trying to “get around” lockdown rules – as the city faces its highest recorded level of Covid infections.
A significant number of people are already contacting officers “trying to work their way around how far they can stretch the regulations” – making rule-breakers one of the biggest challenges police currently face, North Yorkshire Police chief constable Lisa Winward told a York council meeting.
Under new lockdown rules people must stay at home and only go out for specific reasons, including to get essential food and medical supplies. They must stay in their local area.
Ms Winward said: “There are already people contacting us in their droves, trying to work their way around how far they can stretch the regulations.
“We’ve had people contacting us saying ‘I know I can go out to exercise, we’re off work, our children are off school, can we go to the North York Moors for our one period of exercise for the day?’
“Local really does mean local – within your own city, town or village.
“The public are trying already to look at ways in which they can stretch those definitions.
“This is not about trying to get around police legislation – it’s about protecting the health of your family and friends.”
The same meeting heard York’s latest provisional Covid rate is at 559.8 cases per 100,000 people – the city’s highest yet recorded figure.
The force is seeing an increasing number of staff off sick, either after testing positive for coronavirus or being asked to self isolate.
Ms Winward said absence levels are “putting some pressures on policing” – but reassured the health committee that the force is still able to carry out its full service.
The organisation is looking at rolling out regular symptom-free testing to get people back to work quicker and is calling for frontline staff to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We are looking at what point we can vaccinate our staff and officers who have that direct contact with the public, because it’s not always easy to distance from some of the people that we deal with, or have the time to put your PPE on before we have to lay hands on in some of those difficult circumstances,” Ms Winward added.
She said there are also worries about more people with mental health issues coming into contact with police during this third lockdown.
Police bosses fear they will see an even greater rise in coming weeks because it is winter rather than summer.
Under lockdown rules people should only leave home:
- for essential shopping
- to work if you cannot work from home
- to exercise locally with only one other person outside your household
- to meet your support bubble or childcare bubble
- to seek medical assistance
- to avoid harm
- to attend education or childcare if eligible
Superintendent Mike Walker, gold lead for the force’s Covid-19 response, said: “Rules around indoor and outdoor social gatherings have been strengthened further and people should not be meeting socially with anyone outside of their household or support bubble.
“Under these new regulations, if you are outside of your home without a reasonable excuse, or gathering indoors or outdoors with others, the police can take enforcement action against you and you can be fined up to £200.
“I would also stress that it is important to stay as close to home as possible.
“While exercise is permitted, this should be done in your local area, preferably from your doorstep.
“To those who do not live locally, who were thinking of making a journey or day-trip to North Yorkshire to access our open spaces, I would ask you not to make that journey. You should stay close to home and exercise in your own local area.”