London – Police in one of Britain’s largest cities on Thursday urged the public to observe a near-lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, after breaking up 660 parties in just four days.
Greater Manchester Police said they were concerned that more people might ignore the lockdown during the four-day Easter holiday weekend, when fine weather is forecast.
The force said it recorded a “sharp increase’’ to 1,132 reported breaches of the lockdown from Saturday to Tuesday.
The breaches included 494 house parties and 166 street parties, as well as dozens of sports events and other gatherings in parks.
“We understand the desire people will have to spend time with family and friends over the Easter period, however, it is vital that we follow the government guidelines.
“We must do this to protect ourselves, our families, our communities and the NHS [National Health Service] by preventing the spread of this highly contagious infection.
“I would encourage everyone to enjoy themselves at home with their loved ones but please don’t socialise beyond the immediate people that you live with,’’ said Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.
Other police chiefs have expressed concern and reportedly urged the government to give them greater powers to enforce the lockdown.
Nick Adderley, chief constable of Northamptonshire Police in central England, said his force was preparing to strengthen its enforcement of the lockdown.
“Sadly, there are a small minority of people in this county who continue to flout the restrictions inspite of how hard we have tried to engage with them, and, considering what is at stake here, this is hugely disappointing.
“This is why we will be upping our enforcement activity and fining people who are found to be breaching the Covid-19 restrictions, be it people gathering in public or at other people’s homes, or making journeys that are not essential,’’ Adderley said.
Northamptonshire Police can issue spot fines of 60 pounds (75 dollars) for breaches of the lockdown rules, rising to a maximum of 960 pounds for repeat offenders.
The government has ordered everyone to stay at home except for trips for food shopping, medical needs, or one form of exercise per day.
It has closed schools, pubs and restaurants, and encouraged people to work at home and avoid public transport.
Britain had reported more than 7,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 infections by Wednesday.
Government experts estimate that many hundreds of thousands of people are infected, while U.S. researchers have forecast that Britain is likely to record Europe’s highest number of coronavirus-linked deaths.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care at a London hospital following his infection with the virus.