POLICE in Herefordshire have warned that they will be randomly stopping drivers to make sure their journey is within the rules.

They also say they will "direct, fine and arrest if necessary" those who ignore guidance about how to behave during the coronavirus epidemic.

Most people had been responding well to social distancing rules, but a minority who had gathered had been advised and dispersed, they say. 

West Mercia Police Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said in a statement today: "Officers will be providing reassurance and support to their local communities over the coming weeks after the Government’s appeal for the public to limit contact with others.

He said he believes local communities will work with the police to help support the NHS in their response to the Covid-19 virus.

 “There is no doubt we are entering a critical phase to our policing response to Covid-19, and we are currently working to focus our resources towards our frontline response.

"I’m confident our communities will work with us and we will support them by educating and guiding where we can.

"We’re engaging with business and individuals, the majority of whom are respecting the new rules to protect themselves and their families.

"However, a small minority have been advised and dispersed.

"The advice is simple: Stay home, save lives.

“I’m really pleased to see the majority of people are now listening to Government’s request for us to limit non-essential movement as this is helping to support the work of the NHS.

"For the minority who think it’s still okay to ignore the warnings then we won’t shy aware from using our enforcement powers to protect our communities. We will direct, fine and arrest if necessary.

“We will also be out speaking with the public and conducting roads policing checks which will involve randomly stopping people to make sure their journey are within the rules.

“This global pandemic is a national emergency and I am sure we will all work together to help protect the elderly, the vulnerable and those most at risk in our communities. By following the national advice we can all help to make a difference.”

Chief Superintendent Harding said officers themselves are practising social distancing and are working alongside the same colleagues to prevent them coming into contact with more people than is absolutely necessary.

"Our chief officers will continue to work closely with our partners both locally and nationally to ensure we all provide the service needed to keep the public safe and informed.

"Our advice to the public remains the same. We’re here in number. If you need us and we can be contacted via our website or 999 in an emergency situation."