POLICE forces across the North-East are urging people to stay at home to help save lives during the Government lockdown in the fight against the coronavirus.

Leading officers have said they are now working to ensure the strict new rules announced by the Prime Minister on Monday night will be enforced.

Boris Johnson said people can only leave their home to go to essential work, exercise once a day or to buy food or medical supplies.

Almost all business and organisation are being shutdown to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak and to ease the growing pressure on medical services.

Mike Walker, Assistant Chief Constable, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “The new and significant restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on Monday evening spell out very clearly what each and every one of us must do to save lives.

“The message is clear and the warning stark. Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. “These are the lives of the people we know and love. Our partners, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents. You may never be in such a position again where your simple actions will lead directly to saving lives.

“Alongside the new restrictions, the Government announced new powers to enforce them. I know the vast majority of people will follow the restrictions without question, as they have done so already and we will work with local communities to help reinforce the message should it be necessary.

“We sincerely hope that we will not have to resort to enforcement measures, but if we have to, we will.”

Forces across the country are working to get details of the new legislation as it becomes available.

Durham Constabulary’s Chief Constable Jo Farrell and Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Steve White have today issued a joint statement.

They said the most people in County Durham and Darlington have supported efforts to fight the virus and reiterated the latest Government instructions.

• Do not leave the house other than to shop for basic necessities, for one form of exercise per day, for medical needs and to travel to and from work, but only when it cannot be done at home

• All non-essential shops and public places will be closed

• There should be no public gatherings of more than two people

Ms Farrell said: “We know that many of you are already adhering to these measures, and have done so for some time.

“We thank you all for your ongoing support and understanding – by doing this, you are helping to save the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.

“We are working with the Government to consider how these rules can most effectively be enforced and will work closely with our communities to ensure that people know what is expected of them. “Throughout this our officers will be continuing respond to emergencies and deal with serious crime.

“This is a very fast-moving situation and we have taken all the necessary steps to ensure we can continue to protect you and uphold the service that keeps the public safe every day.

“The emergency services, NHS, councils and other partners are all working around the clock to ensure that communities are supported, and that lives are saved.

“We are all in this together - now is the time to do your bit by following Government advice to stay at home.”

Cleveland Police’s Chief Constable Richard Lewis said the coronavirus was now impacting on almost every area of life, and it was important to look out for each other and the most vulnerable.

He said: “The new measures announced by the Government are sensible, based on scientific evidence and give people clarity on the exact steps they must take to stop the rapid transmission of this disease.

“The majority of people are already making real sacrifices to save lives and we urge everyone to follow the advice that is designed to keep us all safe.

“We are working with the government and other agencies to consider how these new rules can be most effectively enforced.

“This is a rapidly developing situation and Cleveland Police is committed to doing everything it can to continue providing the level of service the public would expect during the Covid-19 outbreak.”

A multi-agency Strategic Coordinating Group, chaired by Mr Lewis , is meeting regularly, and includes all the relevant partners at a senior level seeking to coordinate the response across Hartlepool, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland and Middleborough

Mr Lewis said: “This is an unsettling time and I want to reassure residents that our NHS, councils, emergency services and other partners are working together closely to ensure services continue to run, communities and businesses are supported and lives are saved.

“This is an unprecedented time for everyone, and we would ask that you help us – and yourself – by following all the advice from Public Health England.”