An ‘idiotic few’ have been slammed for breaching the Easter Holiday’s coronavirus lockdown rules in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire – including a couple who went boating.
Photos of people sunbathing in Hanley’s Central Forest Park, children playing on swing, a man exercising on public gym equipment and cyclists gathering have all emerged on social media over the weekend.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has even had to replace the locks to the play area off Brakespeare Street, Goldenhill, on three occasions in the past fortnight.
And in one incident, two people were seen enjoying a boating trip in a blow-up dinghy on Westport Lake in Burslem on Good Friday (April 10).
It comes as police forces across the country have dished out more than 1,000 fines for breaches of regulations since Thursday.
Ashley Thomas snapped the picture of the boat when he was out on his daily walk at Westport Lake at 4pm.
While the car park is locked up, residents who live nearby can still exercise at the beauty spot.
The photo has divided opinion after it was uploaded on to Facebook with some people calling for the couple to be reported to the police.
Ashley, who has his own YouTube channel, posed the question: “Just wondering. Is this essential travel?”
His post attracted dozens of negative replies criticising their ‘selfish’ actions.
One man said: “The issue is that everyone wants to do this but can’t. What if 500 others decided to go for a boat ride in the same place at the same time? That’s why we’re being told not to. Idiots.”
Another went even further, to say: “It’s a disgrace, absolutely shocking behaviour. I’m absolutely horrified and I’m a very unhappy man after seeing this. I’m not going sleep tonight.”
And a third said: “This should not be happening. There’s a total disregard for humanity and possibly changing the course of the way we live.
“This is serious people. It’s not OK. People like these are killing innocent individuals. This is so wrong on many levels. My partner works on the frontline to try to save people like this. Wrong wrong wrong.”
One woman raised concerns that the pair were putting themselves at risk of a potential accident.
She said: “The NHS is overrun with coronavirus patients. If these were to fall off the boat they would need urgent treatment and this would create more strain on the poor staff at the hospital – that’s even if they were to come out of the lake alive.
“It’s a bit over the top and inconsiderate.”
Another added: “The boat could quite easily tip over. The temperature of the water could cause them to go into shock!
“They will then need a few different emergency services to attend, when the services are already swamped.”
However, others were more sympathetic – and didn’t feel the couple had done anything wrong.
One man said: “It was just two people on the lake they weren’t hurting anyone or coughing on the ducks for goodness sake!
“At the end of the day, I’m sure they’re safe, they weren’t harming anyone else. Yeah, they could have been hurt but that risk applies to anything.”
A woman said: “I don’t see the issue. Who are they affecting on a boat in the middle of the water? Yet you get cyclists and runners almost crashing into you.”
And another added: “It looks like exercise to me. It’s just as legal and legitimate as walking there. They’re certainly not in close contact with anyone.”
In Saturday’s press briefing, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Martin Hewitt revealed 1,084 fines have been issued as of Thursday.
He said there had been a ‘small minority of people’ who have failed to follow the government’s guidance.
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Mr Hewitt said: “Across all of those forces, that is an average of less than 84 a day.
“This shows that the overwhelming majority of people are abiding by the rules and are staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
“In those few cases where police forces have made mistakes with those new regulations, they have quickly sought to correct them and provide clarity.”