POLICE will make random stop checks of motorists and head on foot patrols to make sure people in St Helens are abiding to the government's lockdown restrictions.

Ahead of the Easter bank holiday weekend senior officers fired out a reminder to people that they should only be leaving home for essential activities.

These are: shopping for food and collecting medication, exercising, and going to work if they are key workers or can’t work from home.

People are also reminded about the importance of social distancing when in public places.

Police have warned they will use their powers, which include issuing fines, where necessary.

The message comes as the Star reported the infection rates in St Helens are the highest in Merseyside and among the worst in the North West following a surge in recent days.

The number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 for St Helens as of Wednesday, April 8 was 269 – a rise of 208 cases over the last week.

By Tuesday, based on the four days previously, the recorded rate of infection based on population in St Helens had increased to the second highest in the North West.

Senior officers say that while the majority of people are adhering to the lockdown, there have been signs this week "that people are starting to ignore the advice".

Merseyside Police say roads are busier and there have been higher numbers of people out enjoying the good weather.

In St Helens there have been cases of people not adhering to the restrictions, with some travelling to house or garden parties.

The force has vowed to crack down on this over Easter.

In a statement police said: "As a result we will be out and about this week to check that people aren’t flouting the restrictions and to remind people why those restrictions are in place and to encourage them to do the right thing and go home.

"We will be doing ad hoc stops to check that motorists are making essential journeys and officers on foot patrols will be talking to members of the public who are out and about to check that they are not breaching the regulations."

Superintendent Paddy Kelly said: “We appreciate this is a bank holiday weekend and normally a time when people are going on holiday or when friends and families gather together and socialise but these are extraordinary and challenging times and everyone needs to abide by the rules in order to keep loved ones safe.

“The Government has instructed everyone that they should stay at home unless making an essential journey.

"That means people should not be going out on day trips, rides out in the car to the beach or local beauty spot, or having barbecues or parties with other people, apart from those living in their own households.

“The restrictions have been in place for more than two weeks now and we understand that people will be getting fed up, but remember why the restrictions are in place and use the time at home to do things together as a family.

“Merseyside Police has taken a fair and common sense approach so far.

"Our officers have been out and about in local communities engaging with the public but if people are persistently flouting the restrictions and not listening to advice we will have to use the powers that have been given to us. Please work with us.

"These are unprecedented and challenging times for all of us, but we all have loved ones and we need to think about them and understand the danger we are putting ourselves, and our loved ones, in if we won’t stop the spread of this virus.”

The plea has been supported by St Helens Council.

Cllr Anthony Burns, cabinet member for public health at St Helens Council, said: “These are difficult times, and every one of us will need to pull together as a community to make sure we get through.

“We must ensure that everyone continues to abide by the restrictions put in place.

"We have the Easter weekend coming up, maybe with some good weather, people may be tempted to go out and about a bit more, but this is the wrong time to do it.

“We need to all hang on and continue to adhere as strictly as we can to the current measures.”