Council chiefs have hit out at rule-breaking ‘covidiots’ who broke into a park’s sports pitches to play football.
Witnesses reported seeing around 20 men playing on the all-weather pitch at Hanley Park on Sunday, in defiance of lockdown restrictions.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is responsible for the site, has kept the pitch locked up during the current period of lockdown – but it says the perpetrators destroyed the locks to get in.
The locks have since been replaced and new signs put in place to remind people of the rules, and the incident has been reported to Staffordshire Police.
Council leader Abi Brown condemned the unlawful activity, saying there also other incidents of social distancing breaches in Hanley Park, Central Forest Park and Westport Lake over the weekend.
The incidents come as Covid infection rates in Stoke-on-Trent continue to plateau, having previously fallen since early January.
Mrs Brown warned that the planned easing of lockdown restrictions could take longer if people continued to break the rules.
She said: “I think it’s very difficult to prevent people from wilfully breaking into locations and removing locks to organise football games. All we can do is carry on with what we have been doing. There is plenty of CCTV in Hanley Park, and our Covid stewards will continue to patrol the park along with the police.
“I can understand that people are getting frustrated after nearly 12 months of restrictions. But we will only be able to come out of lockdown if people follow the rules and bring down our infection rates.
“The people who were doing this knew they were breaking the rules, but they don’t really care. I understand that the incident in Hanley Park has been reported to the police, and hopefully those responsible will be caught.”
Mrs Brown also urged people to get tested for Covid-19 regularly to help bring down infection rates.
Stoke-on-Trent’s seven day Covid infection rate has been hovering just below 150 cases per 100,000 people since the middle of February. In the seven days up to February 25, the case rate was 142 cases per 100,000 – the same level it was on February 15.
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The wards with the highest case rates are currently Fenton East, Lightwood and Normacot.
The city council is now offering 17,000 rapid testing slots a week across 17 different venues. The lateral flow tests are only meant for people showing no coronavirus symptoms.
To book a test, visit www.stoke.gov.uk/bookacovid19test
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