The chief constable of Avon and Somerset police has issued a stark message for people to stay at home in the midst of an unprecedented health emergency.
Andy Marsh said he is proud of frontline officers, who are rising to the challenge of responding to the coronavirus outbreak, and issued reassurance that the force is still working around the clock to keep the region’s communities safe.
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His message was backed up by police and crime commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens, who urged people not to waste time thinking of reasons not to follow the strict new lockdown rules implemented by prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday, March 23, and instead stay at home.
The force declared a major incident on Thursday, March 19 in a bid to ensure all agencies can work together more effectively in the event of reduced staffing levels and increased demand during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
In a statement on Tuesday, March 24, chief constable Andy Marsh said: “Following last night’s announcement from the Prime Minister, I know many of you want to know how it will affect you and your police force. These are unprecedented times and a fast-moving situation. I know many people will be anxious and worried, so I want to reassure you at this time.
“The most important message I can give is please follow the Government’s advice and stay home to save lives. This is a health emergency and I can’t say it any more starkly than that. I know our resilient communities in Avon and Somerset will respond and do the right thing, but the message is clear – we must act now to keep our loved ones safe and to protect our NHS.
“The Prime Minister’s new measures for police forces are designed to help ensure the public remains safe. I’ll be speaking to fellow chief constables today as a matter of urgency to see how these can best be enforced and seek further clarity from the government around new legislation that is expected to be enacted.
“I want to make it clear; we will be enforcing these new measures when new legislation comes in, which will allow us to disperse groups of more than two people.”
He said police will initially seek to persuade those not listening to the advice to do the right thing. If they fail to disperse, they could face a fine.
Sue Mountstevens added: “I would urge people to stop wasting time thinking of any reason to believe that the rules don’t apply to you. The starting point should be that these rules apply to you and you must follow them.
“These new, more stringent, measures announced by the Prime Minister are a clear message to everybody on exactly what we must do to stop the rapid transmission of this virus.
“The chief constable and his frontline officers and staff have the full support of me and my team in the office of the PCC, to ensure they have everything they need to keep communities safe and support our NHS colleagues in the fight against Covid19.
“It is incumbent upon us to do the right thing to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and lessen the impact of this crisis on our frontline NHS colleagues and police men and women by following these tougher restrictions on our everyday lives until further notice.
“Please stay home, save lives.”
Chief constable Marsh added: “Needless to say this will not be an easy time for police officers on the frontline, who I am very proud to see are rising to this challenge and we are doing our best to protect them.
“Officers and staff are working around-the-clock and I want to thank them all for their extraordinary effort. We have tried and tested plans in place should we face reduced staffing levels as a result of people falling ill, including having more of our Special Constabulary giving their time to frontline policing.
“With that in mind though, I would ask the public, please only call 999 in a genuine emergency and only call 101 if you have to. We can take reports of non-urgent incidents online through our website. We are getting a high volume of calls from people asking questions about the restrictions and giving us information about people in groups. The majority of these queries can be answered by visiting the Government website gov.uk – which is being constantly updated.
“So I am asking you again, please adhere to the Prime Minister’s message and make sure our officers’ time is not unnecessarily taken up enforcing measures we all know we must follow. Help us, to help you. Stay at home, save lives.”