The Mirror joined a ‘Covid’ patrol in Middlesbrough where the town mayor Andy Preston was so concerned about the rising number of cases that he closed the local parks at the height of the pandemic

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Separate figures from statistics agencies suggest there have been 111,000 deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Those who are unprepared to wear a mask to protect others; the gainsayers who argue it is all a conspiracy.

The Mirror joined a ‘Covid’ patrol in Middlesbrough on Friday as enforcement teams seek to protect all of us.

The town mayor Andy Preston was so concerned about the rising number of cases that he closed the local parks at the height of the pandemic.

Now, patrols are taking to the streets in a bid to reduce the Covid variant sweeping the North east. Numbers overall are falling thanks to lockdown.

But three quarters of new cases in the region are the dangerous new variant of the virus.

Tim Hodgkinson, in charge of council Covid teams, told how his officers are joining forces with Cleveland Police to target those who persistently flout the rules.

It has resulted in more than £30,000 in council fines being issued to shops for non-compliance since last March.

“Shops are finding customers who still refuse to wear face masks,” explains Tim, during a visit to the Londis store on Corporation Road in the town centre.

“That is the biggest problem for them. It is our job to support the shopkeepers as much as we can.”

One tells the shopkeeper that they ‘don’t need to socially distance’ because they live in the same house.

Tim steps forward to quietly inform him that the social distance markers are not just about protecting him – they are keeping shop staff and other customers safe.

“Their officers then target certain premises where we have spoken to them but we are still getting complaints.

On one recent visit to a store, Tim came across a shopper who told him: ‘I don’t believe in it’ when he was challenged about not wearing a mask.

“The police issue fines for not wearing a mask. We have to inform members of the public why we are doing the work we do.”

Over the next two weeks, Middlesbrough Council Public Protection Officers will be running the rule over 220 supermarkets, stores and other food retailers.

Mr Preston was worried by people he saw without masks out and about shopping in and around the town centre.

He urged all supermarkets to enforce the wearing of face coverings, and said: “I know 20 people pretty well who have had Covid and probably about 100 in total. I spoke to two friends yesterday who have just had it.

“They are recovering now thanks goodness, but they said it was absolutely devastating. It is not like having the flu, it is terrible.

“I am very careful because my wife is in a vulnerable group and we have two children.

“The Government should have been stricter months ago. It is a bit odd – the Tories have this image of being tough, but they have been vague and tolerant of bad behaviour.

“The NHS is under the greatest pressure it has ever experienced. It’s down to every one of us to do everything we can to stop the spread of this dreadful disease.”

Supt Emily Harrison, of Cleveland Police Covid Team, stressed supermarkets have done a ‘fantastic job’ adapting to Covid-19.

“These checks will ensure that stores are continuing with their efforts to be Covid-compliant through this most recent lockdown,” she said.


News – Covid patrol frontline as they battle furious deniers and dole out £17k fines