Hampshire police has today released footage of partygoers trying to surge past officers in a bid to avoid fines – warning people are ‘increasingly’ gathering illegally despite national restrictions being in place.
It comes as The News can reveal that there were 28,000 calls to police to report coronavirus rule breaches between the beginning of April and the beginning of this month – roughly one every 15 minutes.
The party at an Airbnb in St Chad’s Avenue, North End, saw 19 people each handed £800 fixed-penalty notices just a day after the charge increased from £200.
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Footage given to The News today shows how revellers were ‘pushing and shoving’ officers breaking up the party at 10.20pm.
In the body-worn video clip, an officer said: ‘Right, everyone’s going to be leaving one at a time, so we can process you guys and get your details.
‘I don’t want people charging out.’
But just five seconds later the same officer is heard to say ‘stop pushing out’ as more people surge to the front door in a bid to escape.
The short-lived push ends and 19 revellers, who police said were mostly in their late teens to early 20s, were told to pay up for the January 30 party.
Assistant Chief Constable Maggie Blyth said: ‘This party is not a one-off, we’re increasingly seeing reports of gatherings of people from multiple households as some members of the public are struggling to observe the national restrictions in place.
‘Not all these gatherings are of this size, but they are all breaching the current Health Protection Regulations and putting lives at risk.
‘The message is simple, stay at home.
‘We’re releasing this video to demonstrate just how serious incidents like this are. The transmission vectors available for the virus in circumstances like this are numerous.
‘The people attending this party were putting themselves and their loved ones at risk from Covid-19, not to mention the wider community. It’s actions like this that place increased and unnecessary pressure on the NHS.
‘Anyone who does not follow the Health Protection Regulations faces enforcement action.
‘It’s disappointing that the minority are flouting the regulations when the vast majority of people in our communities have made such a concerted effort in such challenging times.’
The person who booked the Airbnb stay has since been suspended from the short-stay lettings company’s platform.
Three men were arrested at the party. A 27-year-old arrested over criminal damage has been told he faces no action.
Another man, also 27, has been bailed until March 5 after being held on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker.
A third man, 24, faced no action over a public order offence.
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane said: ‘I’m offended that people don’t understand the risks that the put themselves into.
‘People need to understand there are significant risks at the moment, they need to behave appropriately, not just within the lines of the law but to stay safe.’
He said ‘it’s quite right that (police) should enforce’ the rules and said lockdown flouters ‘put so many people at risk’.
‘Some of the people running away and doing whatever are abusive in their behaviours, they get themselves into trouble and put themselves at risk,’ he added.
‘I’m supportive of the increased enforcement.’
Hampshire police have issued 592 fines since March 27 last year, 109 in the November lockdown and 71 in the period that covers the latest lockdown that started in January.
The National Police Chiefs Council figures, that go up to January 17, show the force has not fined anyone for holding a gathering of more than 30 people, while 27 businesses have been fined.
Some 92 per cent of Covid-19 infections in Portsmouth are made up of the more transmissible Kent variant.
There have been 319 infections in Portsmouth in the seven days to February 12, giving a rate of 148.4 per 100,000 population.
Middlesbrough has the highest rate in England of 318.5 - while Southampton has a rate of 152.5 per 100,000 people.