North Yorkshire Police issue another record number of Covid fines after warm weather pulls crowds
Police in North Yorkshire have reported yet another record number of Covid fines being handed out after last week's warm weather brought crowds to beauty spots including parks and beaches.
Superintendent Mike Walker, who is leading North Yorkshire Police’s response to the pandemic, told a briefing today that 255 fixed penalty notices were issued in the last seven days in what was the force's busiest week during the latest national lockdown.
One hundred and sixty nine of those fines were handed out over the weekend alone and it marks the sixth week in a row that the number of people found to be breaking the rules has risen.
Superintendent Walker said officers had seen a "marked change" in attitudes towards the rules since the government revealed its roadmap out of lockdown, as he also issued a call for people not to make unnecessary journeys or meet up in groups until the restrictions are eased later this month.
"It seems people are starting to relax their approach to the national lockdown and are starting to bend the rules further," he told a briefing of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum.
"The vaccination programme offers great hope but we are not at the point where we can abandon social distancing and all other precautions.
"We all have 29 March circled in our calendar and we are crossing off the days until we can return to the rule of six outdoors, but imagine the disappointment we will all feel if the Prime Minister announces that the data does not support us moving to that next phase."
During the last seven days, 127 fines were issued in Scarborough, 31 in York, 30 in Hambleton, 20 in Harrogate, 15 in Richmondshire, 13 in Craven, 11 in Selby and 8 in Ryedale.
These included penalties for outdoor and indoor gatherings, as well as being outside of a place of living without a reasonable excuse, which are currently not allowed under the national lockdown.
The rules will be lifted in stages and four conditions must be met at each stage, including a condition which says infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions.
Louise Wallace, director of public health for North Yorkshire, told the briefing today that while infection rates in the county have fallen, a likely rise in the numbers as lockdown measures are lifted must be kept under control while the race to vaccinate the most vulnerable continues.
She said: "Our past experiences show that when easing of restrictions happen it does lead to an increase in cases. It's also clear that the easing of restrictions can lead to changes in behaviour and more opportunities for the virus to spread.
"The vaccination rollout is well underway and this is great news. But as we know, no vaccine is ever 100% effective so even if people have been vaccinated they should still adhere to the rules."
Today's briefing also heard nearly 270,000 people in North Yorkshire and York have now received their first vaccine dose. The rollout is now being extended to those aged over 60, as well as more age groups on the clinically extremely vulnerable list.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter