Norfolk’s Chief Constable has called on communities to ‘stay at home’ as the county faces it biggest challenge yet since the start of pandemic.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said it was essential that the public adhered to the rules following a surge in COVID cases linked to a new, more infectious strain of the virus.

The government announced a third national lockdown on Monday (4 January 2020), which sees a requirement for people to stay at home and only leave for a reasonable excuse, including shopping for food and medicines, seeking medical treatment and providing care or help to a vulnerable person.

Mr Bailey said: “The emergence of new, more transmissible strain of coronavirus has seen a rapid rise in positive cases across the country and here in Norfolk.

“It is clear that coronavirus is more prevalent in our communities than ever before and as an organisation, we are not immune to this.

“Our officers and staff are part of those communities and since December we’ve seen a rise in our sickness levels, with increasing numbers of our workforce testing positive or having to self-isolate.

“We have detailed plans in place to deal with staff shortages, to make sure we can continue to deliver our core services and while responding to urgent calls and protecting people from harm.

“However, there’s no doubt this will be our biggest challenge yet since the start of the pandemic and my message to the public is please work with us. Let’s do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus.

“We all have a part to play in keeping people safe, our friends, family and loved ones, as well as the wider community, many of whom will play essential roles in public services such as policing, health care and teaching.

“We know these are challenging times and that people are having to make great sacrifices in order to adhere to the restrictions, but the rising numbers of positive cases and deaths should serve as a stark reminder to us all of why these measures are in place.”

As with previous lockdown, officers will have powers available to them to issues fines to people who break the rules.

Officers will continue to follow the so-called ‘4Es’ approach of engage, explain, encourage with enforcement carried out as and when required.

Mr Bailey added: “Our approach will always be to encourage voluntarily compliance in the first instance, but officers will be visible and they will take action when required.

“Since the start of this pandemic we’ve engaged widely with the public; people know the risks, they know the rules and what is expected of them. So those who blatantly ignore the rules should expect to receive a fine and we will target our resources towards those who commit the most serious breaches and put others at risk through their behaviour.”

COVID-19 fines given to beauty spot visitors, Horsey

Two people who travelled from Northamptonshire to visit a Norfolk beauty spot have been fined as officers increase enforcement in a bid to support their NHS colleagues.

The couple were found to have made the 120-mile plus journey from their home in Wellingborough to visit Horsey to see the seals yesterday (Thursday 7 January 2021).

Local officers carrying out patrols around 4pm yesterday approached the couple in the beach car park after vehicle checks revealed it was registered to an address outside of the county.

The man and woman, both aged in their 50s, admitted they had travelled to see the seals and were consequently issued with a fixed penalty notice.

Officers across the county will be carrying out dedicated COVID-19 patrols in areas such as town centres and beauty spots to make sure people are adhering to the lockdown rules. Officers will stop and speak to people and ask about the reasons for being away from their home address.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Julie Wvendth, said: “The ‘stay at home’ rule is clear; you should only leave your home for a reasonable excuse such as food shopping, caring for someone who is vulnerable and for one form of exercise a day. If you do need to leave home for any of these reasons, you should stay local.

“The government have outlined that staying local means staying in the village, town or part of the city where you live. It’s our responsibility to adhere to this no matter how tempting it is to travel for a change of scene.

“Contrary to reports on social media, we are not carrying out road blocks to check the reasons for people travelling. Officers will use their discretion, as they routinely do in the course of their duties, when dealing with people who have travelled away from their home. We will be proportionate in our approach but if we find people are blatantly breaking the rules, we will issue fines.

“We are almost a year into this pandemic; people know the rules and the risks associated with breaking them, so people do not have any excuse for not knowing what is expected.”