Avon & Somerset Police have warned they will be enforcing new measures to disperse groups of more than two people.
In a statement Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “Following last night’s announcement from the Prime Minister, I know many of you want to know how it will affect you and your police force.
"These are unprecedented times and a fast-moving situation. I know many people will be anxious and worried so I want to reassure you at this time.
“The most important message I can give is please follow the Government’s advice and stay home to save lives.
"This is a health emergency and I can’t say it any more starkly as that. I know our resilient communities in Avon and Somerset will respond and do the right thing, but the message is clear – we must act now to keep our loved ones safe and to protect our NHS.
“The Prime Minister’s new measures for police forces are designed to help ensure the public remains safe.
"I’ll be speaking to fellow Chief Constables today as a matter of urgency to see how these can best be enforced and seek further clarity from the
Government around new legislation that is expected to be enacted.
“I want to make it clear, we will be enforcing these new measures when new legislation comes in, which will allow us to disperse groups of more than two people.
"If they don’t disperse, they could face a fine. Initially we will be seeking to persuade those not listening to the advice to do the right thing – this will be through talking to people and reasoning with them. I am confident people will listen. This is for all our safety.
“Non-essential businesses have been told to close and we will work with local authorities to make sure this is respected. I want to thank all those businesses which have already followed the advice and shut – you will have saved lives.
“Needless to say this will not be an easy time for police officers on the frontline who I am very proud to see are rising to this challenge and we are doing our best to protect them.
“Officers and staff are working around-the-clock and I want to thank them all for their extraordinary effort. We have tried and tested plans in place should we face reduced staffing levels as a result of people falling ill, including having more of our Special Constabulary giving their time to frontline policing.
“With that in mind though, I would ask the public, please only call 999 in a genuine emergency and only call 101 if you have to. We can take reports of non-urgent incidents online through our website.
"We are getting a high volume of calls from people asking questions about the restrictions and giving us information about people in groups. The majority of these queries can be answered by visiting the Government website gov.uk – which is being constantly updated.
“So I am asking you again, please adhere to the Prime Minister’s message and make sure our officers’ time is not unnecessarily taken up enforcing measures we all know we must follow. Help us, to help you. Stay at home, save lives.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens added: “Advice given so far, to ensure social distancing, has not had the desired effect on changing people’s social habits and behaviours.
"I would urge people to stop wasting time thinking of any reason to believe that the rules don’t apply to you. The starting point should be that these rules apply to you and you must follow them.
“These new, more stringent, measures announced by the Prime Minister are a clear message to everybody on exactly what we must do to stop the rapid transmission of this virus.
“The Chief Constable and his frontline officers and staff have the full support of me and my team in the Office of the PCC, to ensure they have everything they need to keep communities safe and support our NHS colleagues in the fight against Covid19.
“It is incumbent upon us to do the right thing to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and lessen the impact of this crisis on our frontline NHS colleagues and police men and women by following these tougher restrictions on our everyday lives until further notice.
“Please stay home, save lives.”