'The virus has still not gone away': Warning to North Yorkshire shoppers as stores reopen for business

"The virus has still not gone away". That is the warning from a North Yorkshire police chief as many shops reopen for the first time in three months.

By Jacob Webster
Monday, 15th June 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Monday, 15th June 2020, 5:02 pm

Non-essential stores have been allowed to reopen from today, Monday, for the first time since the lockdown was imposed in March.

Safety signs have been put up, footpaths have been widened and 'ambassadors' are out on the streets to help shoppers keep safe.

But Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police's assistant chief constable, says the spread of the virus won't be kept under control unless people follow the physical distancing rules.

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Non-essential stores have been allowed to reopen from today, Monday, for the first time since the lockdown was imposed in March.

“As more and more restrictions are lifted and communities come back to life, personal responsibility is now key to controlling the virus", he said.

"We urge everyone to look after themselves and their loved ones, remember that the virus has still not gone away, keep in mind the purpose of the existing restrictions and regulations and stay safe".

In May, police officers were stripped of their powers to enforce the 2-meter social distancing rule.

And since lockdown measures were eased by Prime Minister Boris Johnson - making it possible for people to travel anywhere in England - it has become even harder for police to enforce the law.

Officers have instead been focusing their efforts on breaking up large social gatherings which are not allowed.

Assistant chief constable Mike Walker said officers will continue encouraging people to follow the latest guidelines, with enforcement only being used as a "last resort".

In a series of safety measures, social distancing signs welcoming shoppers back to the high streets have been put up around Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon.

Temporary barriers have also been installed on some town centre streets to widen footpaths for social distancing - and some public toilets were reopened on Saturday.

Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum and chief executive of the county council, added: “We’ll all need to get used to navigating our new-look high streets.

"The measures we are putting in place have been carefully considered and are designed to give people the confidence to go shopping and buy local, which is something we can all do to play a part in our county’s recovery.

“While these measures to aid social distancing and active travel are important, one of the biggest things we can do when visiting our high streets, and elsewhere, is to take personal responsibility to maintain social distancing and to consider others".

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter