As the UK marks one year since the country’s first national stay-at-home order, Kent Police is reminding people to continue to follow the rules for a safe return to normality.

Since March 2020 Kent Police has worked closely with the Government, partner agencies, other forces and the local community to police the pandemic and keep people safe from Covid-19.

Officers have engaged with the public, supported them by explaining the rules and encouraged them to do the right thing since the first lockdown, with enforcement used as a last resort.

Whilst many people in Kent have continued to adhere to the regulations, adapt and stayed at home to save lives, a small minority have broken the rules and this has left the force with no alternative but to issue fines.

Since March last year the force has issued 2,588 fixed penalty notices to those disregarding the restrictions at various stages of the pandemic. Of those fines, 52 were for breaching international travel regulations, 19 were given to individuals failing to wear face coverings and 16 to people who have failed to self-isolate.

Last weekend, despite the current lockdown restrictions, 136 fines were given out to those disregarding the restrictions currently in place.

Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix said: ‘The Government has made it clear that we must take cautious steps out of lockdown and although being able to meet and hug our family and friends is just on the horizon, we are not out of the woods yet so it is important we follow the planned steps carefully and safely.

‘Tragically many lives have been lost across the world and the past twelve months have been no exception in Kent. Almost every person has been affected in one way or another.

‘Whilst many people in the county wait patiently to go back to work, reopen their businesses or see their loved ones, our officers will continue to engage with the community to ensure people are complying with the Government’s roadmap so that everyone gets the opportunity to get back to normal sooner rather than later.

‘This past year has not only been a challenge for the wider public but for our officers and staff too along with many other key workers who have had to quickly adapt the way in which they work.

‘During this time we have identified some of the force’s shining lights, from those who returned to help as volunteers, to others who came up with innovative ideas to bring vulnerable communities together.’

Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Deborah Forsyth set up a choir called Village Voices to help Thanet residents cope with isolation and loneliness. During the pandemic, she has been running the choir through online meetings to ensure people still have a way to socialise.

Richie Pankhurst, also a PCSO, produced a multilingual leaflet, which summarised Covid-19 advice and guidance in 16 languages for residents in Cliftonville West. He realised many international residents needed information in order to keep safe from the virus.

Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Deborah Forsyth set up a choir called Village Voices

More than twenty volunteers were taken on by the force to carry out roles including training, maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supporting vulnerable people. Their work resulted in more than 770 hours of volunteering to support the policing of the pandemic between March and July last year.

Fifteen people joined the Special Constabulary to provide additional support in 2020, with the first joining a week after lockdown started. This included Special Inspector Karen Radford in Medway who had already carried out 26 years of exemplary policing, and Special Constable Paul Holmes in Maidstone who has been assisting with driver training, public order training and development and who additionally helps lead the police cadets.

ACC Nix added: ‘At Kent Police, as well as working with additional PPE and adopting social distancing measures, officers, PCSOs and volunteers have spent many hours engaging with the public regarding Covid-19 regulations. This has been done whilst continuing with everyday policing to ensure Kent remains safe and residents continue to receive a first-class service.

‘As if the global pandemic wasn’t enough for everyone to contend with, the public suffered mass disruption at the ports in the run up to Christmas following unprecedented traffic congestion after the French government closed the border due to concerns over a new strain of the virus.

‘Our continued work with other forces and partner agencies has been paramount to managing the pandemic.

‘Thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel and despite the need to issue fines over the past year I’m pleased to be able to say the majority of people in Kent have done and continue to do the right thing.

‘Next week, as of Monday 29 March 2021, gatherings of up to six people or two households are due to return outdoors and in private gardens. Outdoor sports facilities will reopen too.

‘As we approach this milestone combined with the warmer weather, it is important we remain focussed and don’t become complacent to the rules. The Government’s roadmap applies to everyone and should be followed, it is the key for us all to get back to a normal way of life and we seek everyone’s support in continuing to follow the rules.

By Ed