Dorset Police and other agencies in the county are asking the public to ‘act responsibly’ and ‘think twice’ before travelling to Dorset because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The police insist, however, that they are here to enforce ‘the law’ and not government guidance.
And that enforcement of the regulations will only be a ‘last resort’.
Chief Constable James Vaughan, of Dorset Police, said: ‘We had an important part to play when the Government locked down the country to tackle the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Our officers were out there in force to ensure that people were sticking with the restrictions and engaging with those who were not.
‘Now there has been an expansion to the reasonable excuses, which allows the public to spend more time away from their homes for shopping, work and exercise.
‘We enforce the law and not government guidance or advice so we have no role to play in enforcing social distancing, the wearing of masks or avoiding public transport.
‘We still have a responsibility where people are gathering in large groups with those not in their household, as this is not legally permitted in the regulations.
‘I have no doubt that the fact we are now able to spend much more time outdoors will be welcomed by everyone. Now each of us need to take personal responsibility for doing that within the restrictions set out by the Government. The public is being asked to think and do the right thing.
‘In Dorset, we are joining forces with our partner agencies and asking the public to use common sense and to ‘think twice’ before rushing to the county. We do not want the relaxation of the restrictions to act as a green light for tourists to flock to our beauty spots and inadvertently spread the virus to local people.
‘The efforts of the residents in Dorset over the past weeks have meant our officers have rarely had to enforce the government regulations – thank you for playing your part in this.
‘We will use common sense and discretion to determine what’s reasonable. Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the regulations and guidance and encourage people to follow what is being asked of them. Enforcement is a very last resort.’
The amendments made by Government mean people in England can:
• collect goods from a business permitted to remain open and visit recycling centres, garden centres and outdoor sport courts
• take part in activity associated with the sale or letting of residential property – including visiting estate agents and attending house viewings
• visit public open spaces alone or with members of your household for recreation
• visit public open spaces or take exercise with one member of another household, as long as they stay two metres apart
Between Friday 27 March and Thursday 14 May 2020 Dorset Police issued 808 fixed penalty notices to people who have allegedly breached the COVID-19 (coronavirus) restrictions.
Chief Constable James Vaughan said: ‘Going forward, we will continue to police the county and protect the public as we have done throughout the pandemic.
‘Our officers and staff will be concentrating on the crimes that matter the most to our communities and have a significant impact on vulnerable people. We will be targeting county lines drug gangs, ensuring our children and young people are safe online, tackling speeding as part of the fatal five and responding to reports of anti-social behaviour.
‘Our mobile camera vans will be back out responding to community concerns about speeding and traffic officers will be ensuring motorists are not putting others at risk on our roads.’
If you would like to report a crime please Do It Online at www.dorset.police.uk, contact us via email [email protected] or call 101. If life is in danger or a crime is in progress call 999.
The Police & Crime Commissioner for Dorset, Martyn Underhill, said: ‘The joint message from police and our partner agencies in Dorset is very clear – please “think twice” before coming to our county.
‘To those who live outside the county, the message that went out a couple of weeks ago was that Dorset was closed and today we continue to ask visitors not to come to Dorset at this time. The hotels, campsites, bars and restaurants remain closed so we cannot offer you the best of Dorset right now, and of course we also want to protect our coastal and rural communities.
“If you want to understand why we say this, take a quick look at the map of COVID-19 infections and you will see that our county, and the South West as a whole, has remained relatively low in comparison with other parts of the UK. We don’t want to see that picture change as a result of a sudden influx of visitors.
‘Dorset residents themselves are able to now enjoy the relative new freedoms that have been granted, particularly the relaxed restrictions around daily exercise, but we would ask both residents and those who are thinking of visiting Dorset to think twice, consider the risks, weigh up the potential consequences of their actions and then choose to stay safe and stay local.’