Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, of Greater Manchester Police, said officers would also visit pharmacies to maintain order as demand for food and medicine grows. Nationally, officers will have powers to break up gatherings of more than two people and fine those caught flouting orders at least £30.
Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said police could demand reasons from people about why they are outside and may ask to see ID.
Within hours of the lockdown, officers in Coventry revealed they caught a group of more than 20 people having a barbecue.
Chief Constable Dave Thompson branded it “stupid, irresponsible, life-threatening behaviour”.
CC Thompson also warned people not to panic buy, adding: “We need to look after each other.”
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Police will patrol supermarkets to stop coronavirus sparking panic in stores
Police chiefs warned of phone lines being inundated with calls after Mr Johnson’s statement, with questions about what movements are still permitted.
Chief Constable Nick Adderley, of Northamptonshire Police, urged people not to “cripple” the force’s phone lines.
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “We are extremely grateful to the increasing number of people who are using the live-chat and online crime-recording facilities on our website.
“This is giving us the capacity to focus on emergencies and significant crime. It is also allowing us to start visibly patrolling supermarkets, pharmacies and other open spaces to provide reassurance.
“We are patrolling supermarkets and pharmacies to provide reassurance to vulnerable people at key times so they can do their shopping safely.
“Social distancing is vital.
“What I ask is that you listen to Government advice and keep two metres between you and anyone else.
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“Please follow this advice, if not for yourself, then for others. They could have underlying conditions that are not visible, putting their life at risk.
“If you have not noticed changes in your life, then you have not done enough to stop the spread of the virus.”
Officers in Manchester city centre were seen breaking up a group, including four people who appeared to be sitting too close together on benches.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said police would be forced to “enforce” new laws, if people refuse to follow social distancing rules.
He said: “I think the stage that we will be at is our police officers doing what we do which is talking to people on the streets.
“For many people that are there, if someone is going there as a key worker and is going to an NHS facility, they will have some form of work ID that will make it very clear what they are and who they are.
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The vital importance of social distancing
“The vast majority of people will be out there for a legitimate purpose.
“But we need to be able to identify those people who aren’t, explain to them why this is so important and encourage them to go back inside.”
West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson described the coronavirus crisis as “unprecedented in peacetime and I know it will be hard on you and your families”.
He added: “If we have to talk to you we will make it clear we are dealing with a national health emergency, reinforce the importance of complying with these new measures, strongly encourage people to adhere to them at all times, reinforce that the measures are there to protect our country and in particular the vulnerable and ask that you do not buy more food than you need.
“We need to look after each other.
“If people do not listen to our advice then we will move to enforcement.
“We are already receiving many calls on potential breaches of these arrangements.
John Apter, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it was “not realistic” for officers to check how many times people had exercised in a day.
He said: “Certainly the police will get involved with more than two people gathering in the same place but as far as policing the bread aisles in the supermarkets, or checking how many times people are going to the shops, that’s simply impractical.
“It’s going to be really tough and what we have to get across to the public is that as far as policing is concerned it is not business as usual.
“The normal things my colleagues, officers, would normally go to, we need to decide what it is we cannot go to any more.
“Because dealing with this partial lock-down is going to put incredible amounts of pressure on my colleagues – and they are up for this.”
How are you coping with the coronavirus lockdown? What are you doing to keep yourself entertained in these difficult times? How are you helping your local community, or has someone in the local community been helping you? Send your stories, pictures and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org