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Calls for tougher measures to stop people flouting social distancing rules in Newham parks

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 April 2020

Youngsters gathering in a playground in Plashet Park. Picture: Submitted

Youngsters gathering in a playground in Plashet Park. Picture: Submitted

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Calls have been made for tougher measures to stop people flouting social distancing rules.

Groups picnic along a path in Plashet Park. Picture: SubmittedGroups picnic along a path in Plashet Park. Picture: Submitted

Groups blocking paths, having picnics, playing football and using closed playgrounds in spaces including Plashet Park, Central Park, Star Lane Park and Wanstead Flats are among the issues causing concern.

John Collins, who lives near Star Lane Park in Canning Town, reported seeing up to 20 people playing football there as well as mums meeting and youngsters using an outdoor gym.

“We have helped to stem the spread of this deadly disease, but if people don’t abide by the rules it will rear its head again in what could be a much deadlier wave,” John warned.

Kianna Bahrami, who visits Plashet Park with her two-year-old son, said: “It should be a time to savour. That time is precious. But it’s pretty stressful.

Police on Wanstead Flats on April 15 where groups of people have been observed playing football in an apparent flouting of social distancing measures. Picture: SubmittedPolice on Wanstead Flats on April 15 where groups of people have been observed playing football in an apparent flouting of social distancing measures. Picture: Submitted

“There are hordes of people not following the advice which makes going out tricky. You feel vulnerable.”

She explained how groups congregate on paths, creating barriers and ignoring social distancing.

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On one trip to Wanstead Flats, the family witnessed a group of men screaming at a park warden who asked them to stop playing football. She called for extra patrols and the issuing of more fines.

Youngsters play basketball in a court at Star Lane Park which has been closed. Picture: SubmittedYoungsters play basketball in a court at Star Lane Park which has been closed. Picture: Submitted

Park user Karl O’Keeffe said that at a time when so many are relying on green spaces for their wellbeing, the police have a duty to target and focus patrols at key times.

“Parks play such a vital role in our community and some people just aren’t treating them or the other people in them with respect.

“Simply asking people to move on is not working. More robust enforcement to make it clear that selfish behaviour leads to the spread of a deadly disease is essential,” Karl said.

If someone refuses to follow the rules, police can issue £60 fines or charge people in more serious criminal offences. They can act if people leave their homes without a reasonable excuse or are in a public gathering of more than two people, unless they live together.

About 20 men play football in Central Park, East Ham, on Sunday, April 26. Picture: SubmittedAbout 20 men play football in Central Park, East Ham, on Sunday, April 26. Picture: Submitted

A Met spokeswoman said: “The majority of people are doing what the government advice is asking.

“If someone is out and we have questions as to why, we will talk to them, explain and encourage them to go home.

“We want to reassure everyone we are here to keep people as safe as we can.”


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