CHILDREN’S playgrounds and exercise equipment in parks and open spaces across St Helens are now closed to the public.

On Monday evening, 27 million TV viewers watched Boris Johnson announce a range of new measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus – effectively putting the UK under lockdown.

This followed a plea from the Prime Minister on Sunday to follow the government’s instructions on social distancing after crowds of people flocked to parks and other open spaces over the weekend.

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Under the new draconian measures, parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings of more than two people are banned, with the police being given new powers to disperse and fine offenders.

“This measure will no doubt affect thousands of local people who are trying to keep their family’s spirits up in these difficult times,” said Cllr Andy Bowden, cabinet member for environmental services.

“But it is a necessary step we are taking to reduce the spread of coronavirus and save lives.”

Exercise outdoors can be done with members of your household once a day, but you should avoid parks if possible where there are likely to be more people.

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People should minimise the amount of time spent out of their homes and should keep two metres (6ft) away from people they do not live with.

All of St Helens Council’s leisure centres have closed in line with government measures.

Residents wishing to exercise indoors can find online classes with the council’s sports development team from, Monday, March 30, at