Police and council officials are calling on local residents to resist the temptation to gather in different households and breach Covid-19 restrictions as the festive season ramps up.
Staffordshire Police has received reports from concerned residents over get-togethers and house parties in private dwellings - which is prohibited under the Very High Alert level rules currently in place in the county.
While the Government has outlined how a ‘Christmas bubble’ can be composed of people from no more than three households between December 23 and December 27, the force and local authority has been working to educate communities over the need to stick to the current restrictions until then to stop the virus spreading.
Over the last week, police officers have issued 58 fixed penalty notices for different breaches – including gatherings - across the county with 43 of those being given out of the weekend. That figure does represent a fall from the 91 issued over the previous week.
And senior officers have been quick to thank the public across Staffordshire as the “vast majority” have abided by the rules. Superintendent Tom Chisholm, head of neighbourhood policing, said: “We are working with our communities to help them fully understand what the current restrictions mean and what they can and cannot do at this current time.
“It is concerning that our officers are responding to issues where individuals are gathering at houses for parties and general gatherings. We fully understand that this is the time of year where people want to enjoy themselves as the festive season arrives. But as the message has been across the country – we cannot afford to lapse now in our battle against Covid-19.
“What we are keen to stress to those who are found in breach is that it is not just their health they are putting in jeopardy but that of their loved ones. Obviously, there will be the opportunity to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ as per the national guidance but this is simply not that time and it is important that people continue to follow the rules. We all want to enjoy Christmas in what are extremely challenging times and to do so we must protect ourselves and the most vulnerable in the community.
“Enforcement is taken where necessary and we hope that the notices we have issued will send out a very clear message that the rules are in place for a reason. It has to be said that the vast majority of our residents have stuck to the guidance and we thank them for doing so – what you are doing is vital in tackling Covid-19.
“Along with reacting to reports we are also proactive in the way we are looking to provide advice, guidance, and ensure those who should be isolating are doing just that. Our work in these difficult times is being done with one aim – to keep people safe and healthy, and to prevent colleagues in the NHS being overwhelmed.”
Meanwhile Stoke-on-Trent City Council has reminded residents over the risks to older family members when households mix. City council leader Councillor Abi Brown said: “With the Christmas break fast-approaching, it has never been more important that people follow the guidance. Stoke-on-Trent is in tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, this means households should not be mixing.
“The city’s infection rate for over 60s is currently high. By mixing households residents are potentially putting older family members at risk, we know that if people continue to break these rules and mix households the infection rate will only increase. We need to protect our loved ones who are vulnerable to the virus.
“Our public protection team are continuing to follow up complaints we receive and offer advice to businesses, while sharing intelligence with the Police. We continue to urge people to report issues to us by emailing [email protected] or calling 01782 234234.”