Several people across Devon and Cornwall have been stopped and fined by the police in the last few days for breaking Covid rules.
“This weekend, stop the spread, stick to the rules.”
Charlotte Becquart www.devonlive.com
During the national lockdown, people must not leave, or be outside of their home except where necessary. Travel restrictions are equally as strict and people must not meet anyone outside their household or support bubble inside. Outside, meeting one other person is permitted, as long as social distancing (two metres apart) is maintained. You can click here for a list of everything you can and cannot do this weekend.
But some people are still ignoring the rules, despite the serious consequences breaches can have on coronavirus transmission and public health.
In Plymouth, 16 people attended an illegal ‘lockdown house party’ last night.
Two people were arrested and 16 fined £800 each after the illegal gathering on Spindle Crescent, Plympton..
Officers were called to the address after receiving several reports about a potential breach of coronavirus rules in the area.
They discovered the group, who do not live together, inside the front room of a property socialising and “drinking, smoking cannabis and doing NOS [nitrous oxide] canisters”.
Among the excuses party-goers gave police for breaking the law, one individual told police: “I get tested every week anyway, I’m a dental nurse,” Plymouth B Section Response Officer, PC Adam Bell recalled.
PC Bell was one of the first police officers to attend the illegal social gathering last night and has dubbed the party-goers “Covidiots”.
He told PlymouthLive two double-crewed units were initially called to the address, but due to the “volume of people and drugs” they found, a further two units were soon called to the scene.
He said he was “lost for words” when he opened the door to all 16 people partying in the living room, and was shocked that most party-goers came up with excuses for their socialising.
Among them, many party-goers gave officers “the usual spiel that their lives are being ruined by the government and the virus won’t affect them,” he said.
You can read the full story here.
Another illegal party took place earlier this week, this time on the Isles of Scilly. The late gathering took place on Wednesday night, which one police sergeant has described as “a selfish act.”
Sgt Darren White, of Devon and Cornwall Police’s Isles of Scilly policing team, took to Twitter to vent his frustrations at the lockdown flouters who he said put their “fragile” community at risk.
He went on to explain that next day apologies do not come close to justifying such a selfish act.
The tweet said: “9 Covid Fixed Penalty Notices issued today for a late night party last night.
“There are no excuses, and next day apologies do not come close to justifying the risk this single selfish act exposes our fragile community to!”
In Cornwall, on Wednesday, a man faced receiving a fine for driving to a beauty spot for a walk – after sparking a major search operation when he got lost in the mist.
The man, from Bodmin, was walking his dog on Bodmin Moor when he had to contact the emergency services to report that he had got lost.
The matter was complicated when his phone battery died, meaning his exact location could not be determined.
It sparked a major search operation involving multiple teams from East Cornwall Search and Rescue with further assistance later called from West Cornwall Search and Rescue and Dartmoor Rescue Group, as fading light and difficult conditions made the search harder.
Just over 45 minutes after the additional teams were requested, emergency services received a call from the missing man, who informed them that he had found his way to St Breward and was safe and well.
Bodmin Police revealed that the man lived thirteen miles away from the location where he was, having made the journey to the moors to walk his pet, in spite of alternatives being closer.
Police considered issuing a fixed penalty ticket for the breach of coronavirus regulations, however after he offered to donate the amount to the volunteers who rescued him, he was issued with advice by officers.
Bodmin Police said: “On the morning of Wednesday 27th January emergency services were contacted by a male who reported he had been walking his dog on Bodmin moor and was now lost due to the thick mist and poor visibility before his location could be ascertained his phone run out of power and he could not be contacted.
“The initial investigation identified two possible locations on Bodmin Moor, which were a significant distance apart and Police officers were deployed to both areas to try to find the male’s car.
One of the search and rescue dog team’s dogs assisting with the search (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police/Cornwall Search and Rescue)
“The car was located and the search then focused in the Rough Tor area of Bodmin Moor, East Cornwall Search & Rescue team were deployed to the moor and commenced searching in very difficult conditions.
“At 1500 with fading light and the male not having been located, assistance was requested from West Cornwall Search & Rescue and Dartmoor Rescue Group, who also started to deploy teams to the incident to assist with searching.
“At 1548 a call was received from the male stating he had found his way to St Breward and was safe and well.
“The male lives in the Bodmin area and he stated he was taking his daily exercise. He had made a journey of 13 miles to do so despite there being plenty of alternatives that were closer. The male involved has since spoken with Police and consideration was given to the issue of a fixed penalty ticket for breaching the coronavirus regulations.
“He has, however, kindly paid the equivalent amount as a donation towards the invaluable work of the volunteers from Cornwall Search & Rescue to whom he is very appreciative (along with everyone else who attended).”
The spokesperson also added that the incident highlights another reason by people should stay local as per coronavirus guidance, saying: “This highlights another reason why the advice is to stay local. You may inadvertently become involved in an incident that places others at risk. In this case, numerous responders had to attend to search for him.
“We would also advise that if you are venturing onto any moorland you take suitable precautions: check the weather – don’t go if it’s poor and you are inexperienced. ensure you have a means of navigation and know how to use it, have a backup means of navigation, have a fully charged phone and stay where you have a signal, Have spare warm & waterproof clothing and let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you are due back.”
Police officers in Devon also had to remind people to stay in their local area and stop travelling unnecessarily – even if driving just 15 minutes away to go for a walk.
It comes just a week after officers stopped a motorist in Churston who had driven for around 20 minutes from Totnes to go for a walk, and just a few days after officers stopped another driver who had travelled from Newton Abbot to Brixham Breakwater.
A statement from Brixham Police, issued on Saturday morning, reads: “Please remember why we are all in a national lockdown – to protect the NHS.
“Last weekend, we had to speak to a driver who had come from Totnes to walk around Churston. The journey from Totnes would have taken approx. 21 minutes.
“During the week, we had to speak to someone who travelled from Newton Abbot to walk along the Brixham Breakwater, a journey of 32 minutes.
“Travelling from Paignton to Dartmoor takes approx. 26 minutes, Goodrington to the Coleton area takes 19 minutes, Paignton to Berry Head takes 15 minutes, Paignton to Babbacombe takes 15 minutes.
“I would suggest none of these journeys could be deemed essential or local for exercise when there are walks closer to people’s front doors.
“The lockdown is designed to minimise contact between communities as the NHS is under extreme pressure at this time.
“Please think about the distances you travel to exercise and whether it is justified and consider whether it is worth a £200 fine if you decide to drive further afield.
“This weekend, stop the spread, stick to the rules.”
The lockdown rules:
Government rules currently in place during the third lockdown in England state that people must only leave their home for the following reasons:
- Shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person.
- Go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home.
- Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person (in which case you should stay 2m apart). Exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- Meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.
- Seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
- Attend education or childcare – for those eligible.
A message on the Government’s website says: “You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
“You should follow this guidance immediately. This is the law.”