Police enforce ‘lockdown’ rules in Hertfordshire, as Covid-19 cases increase

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Hertfordshire Police said that as cases were rising so was enforcement

Hertfordshire Police are cracking down on those who break ‘lockdown’ rules, as figures show Covid-19 cases in the county continue to rise.

Up to 40 police officers at a time are conducting dedicated Covid patrols around the county – focussed around shops and transport hubs.

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And since October the have issued 500 Covid-related verbal warnings – issuing around 50 fines or ‘Fixed Penalty Notices.

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Among the more high profile breeches of Covid restrictions have been a music event on an industrial estate, a wedding party and other house parties.

But in other incidents they have found shoppers who have refused ‘point blank’ to wear face coverings.

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, November 18, Chief Superintendent Matt Nicholls, from Hertfordshire Police, said that as cases were rising so was enforcement.

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But he stressed that, in general, people across Hertfordshire had complied with the rules and had ‘done the right thing’.

“What we are seeing is most people – once challenged by police officers – will comply,” said Chief Superintendent Nicholls.

“It’s those repeat offenders in repeat locations which we will target.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the force has adopted an approach of ‘engage, explain and encourage’ – before enforcement.

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And Chief Superintendent Nicholls says that when challenged it has been clear that some people had not fully understood some of the rules and regulations.

But now he says: “We feel now that nine or 10 months in, the public know there is a public health crisis.”

At the same briefing Hertfordshire County Council’s director of public health Jim McManus reported that increases in cases – that had initially been concentrated in lower age groups – were moving into older populations.

He highlighted shopping as a cause of major spread – as well as highlighting healthcare settings, education and childcare.

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And he said there were currently 75 Covid patients in ‘acute’ hospital beds in Hertfordshire – including eight who were receiving mechanical ventilation.

“This idea that very few people are getting ill this time – and so don’t need to be bothered about hospitals – is a bit of a myth circulating,” said Mr McManus.

Mr McManus said that advances in treatment meant more people were receiving non-invasive oxygen treatment – and that more people were surviving.

But pointing to the increasing pressure on the NHS, he said there were currently a further 142 people recovering in hospital from Covid in rehabilitation beds.

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And he admitted that overall the county was in a position that was “worse than I would like”.

“I would like us to be the county that keeps it under control,” he said. “It’s not as bad as many other areas – for me that’s little consolation.

Current ‘lockdown’ restrictions are expected to decrease the number of infections by 40 per cent – compared to a 70 per cent reduction last time, when schools were closed.

Mr McManus stresses most people have been “absolutely brilliant” in responding to the ‘lockdown’ restrictions.

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But he recognises that there are people who are ‘treating it very differently this time’, which he suggests is because they are ‘very tired’.

He stresses that the impact the latest ‘lockdown’ will have on the virus is still ‘in the hands of each and every one of us’.

He highlights an increase in the number of people pulling face masks from their noses while shopping – and those who then have a cigarette without hand-washing.

And he said: “I know we are all tired but we need to get back to it.”

Meanwhile executive member for public health and prevention Cllr Tim Hutchings warned that things were ‘not going to be anywhere near normal in the foreseeable future’.