A skater has told how he was stopped by ‘over-zealous’ Covid marshals after heading to a Stoke-on-Trent park with two friends.
The 23-year-old – who has not been out of the house because of lockdown – decided to go on a bike ride to get some exercise.
He met up with two friends – also on bikes – and they kept two metres as they rode to the skate plaza in Hanley’s Central Forest Park.
It was as the trio entered the park separately that the yellow jacket stewards approached on Sunday (January 17)
The skater, who lives in Hanley but asked not to be named, said: “We came up from the car park, we weren’t together and had two metres between us. They had two small vans and two marshals came out of each one.
“They walked up to the skate park and were on their walkie talkies. They came up like something from Men In Black.
“They were saying ‘we’ve had some reports off the police’ that we were three different households.
“When they started talking we pointed to the park because there were loads of kids there mingling.
“It’s one rule for one group and a different rule for another.
“They said if it were them they would close down all the parks. They walked off and totally ignored the playground which was full of families all mixing together.”
The skater was stopped as Covid stewards are patrolling parks after youths were caught gathering on CCTV in breach of lockdown.
Under the rules, one person is only allowed to meet with one other person from a different household.
Anyone who does not comply could face a £200 fine.
But the skater said: “The marshals were coming down with some sort of intimidation, it’s ridiculous. I feel like they were taking the mick a little bit.
“If you are going to clamp down, at least do it properly. A lot of people were not following the rules. We are the ones on bikes and when we are riding we’re nowhere near each other.
“The kids in the park are interacting and playing tag, you’d think that would be the more priority but apparently not.
“I found it funny that they came down to us but not to where the biggest problem was, it doesn’t make any logical sense.
“I want them to make it more equal. If you are going to enforce the rules for one then do it for everyone. Not just like beat around the bush and pick and choose.”
He added: “I’ve barely been out because of the lockdown so I thought I’d take my bike down there while the weather was adequate.
“It’s very important for me to get out of the house to get fresh air. Being inside effects your mental health and causes anxiety.”
Council leader Abi Brown is calling on young people to stick to lockdown.
She said: “We all need fresh air and to get the exercise that we are allowed, but please stick to the guidelines.
“You can go outside to public spaces for exercise and you’re allowed to exercise outdoors with the people you live with. You can meet for exercise with one person from another household, but you can’t take anyone else from your household to meet them – except for a child under the age of five.
“You can only meet to exercise, not to socialise – for example, you can’t have a picnic or social meeting.
“We are actively sharing information with the police, you could be fined £200 if you go out or meet with people when you’re not allowed to.”
Chief Inspector Mark Barlow, commander of Stoke-on-Trent North Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We have proactive patrols who are continuing to target hotspot areas where there have been reports of people gathering or simply not following the national guidelines. We also work closely with the local authority’s Covid Stewards to identify locations where concerns have been raised.
“Our frontline officers are keen to engage and educate people over the rules – but where necessary they have the power to issue fixed penalty notices of £200.
“We have found the majority of people are doing the right thing and following the rules and we want to thank them for playing their part.”