POLICE have criticised visitors who packed New Forest car parks on Sunday, with some having travelled from as far as Guildford.
Totton officers have now made a plea for the public to take the ‘stay at home’ message seriously after patrolling sites to ensure compliance with the coronavirus restrictions during the third nationwide lockdown.
This comes after the town’s neighbourhood policing team was struck by the virus, with members off work over Christmas and several others forced to self-isolate.
Sharing pictures of the car parks filled to capacity, the team reminded residents they should be travelling locally only for daily exercise. They pointed out travelling more than 55 miles from Guildford was “not local”.
The social media post said: “We have found that every single car park in the New Forest is ram-packed with vehicles.
“When members of the public were asked where they have travelled from, some said that their home addresses are in places such as Guildford and Dorset. People are travelling from areas that are not local to the New Forest.
“We are in a lockdown, you should only be travelling locally. Guildford is over 55 miles from the New Forest. This is not local.”
Officers urged the use of common sense when determining which destinations were local, while clarification was awaited from the government.
They added: “The pandemic is very much real. The Totton team have only just recovered from self-isolating due to contracting Covid-19. Please take this seriously.”
Several Facebook users vented their frustration with the rule-breakers, with some claiming the long-distance travellers prevented Forest residents from exercising in the district.
Others argued the Forest car parks should be locked so only those who walk or cycle to the areas will be able to visit them.
“We live in the Forest and won’t go out because of the stupidity of others who don’t live locally,” one wrote, praising the officers for their efforts.
Another said “The easiest solution is close the gates, this way if you can walk there then you’re ‘local’.”
Meanwhile, Dorset Police thanked members of the public for adhering to the lockdown over the weekend after another threatened protest on Saturday failed to materialise.
The force said officers had engaged with organisers during the week to prevent the demonstration taking place, warning action would be taken against deliberate Covid rule-flouters.
The previous weekend saw officers dealing with protesters who walked around Bournemouth town centre in smaller groups before coming together in a ‘flash mob’ style.
Three people were arrested, and fixed penalty notices and section 35 dispersal orders were handed out.