COVID-19 RATES REMAIN HIGH IN EAST MIDLANDS:
Director of Public Health Warns Scenes in the Arboretum & Elsewhere Risk Resurgence of Virus
On Monday 1 March 2021, the Nottingham Post's Senior Digital Reporter and Crime Correspondent, Matt Jarram, reported that students explained the scenes in the Arboretum during the last week-end by saying 'they had been stuck in "dingy house" for months and it was inevitable that the warm weather would bring them out.' In a follow-up article on Tuesday 2 March 2021, Matt Jarram reported on the fears of Nottinghamshire's Police and Crime Commissioner that summer is at risk if the week-end's behaviour by others as well as students continues.
'We need to get out of our dingy houses' - Busy scenes at Arboretum explained
Police were called to the park after reports of gatherings at the weekend
Students say they have been stuck in "dingy houses" for months and it was inevitable that the warm weather would bring them out.
Other students said the Arboretum was good for their mental health as the pandemic has reached its third national lockdown.
Police had to disperse large groups of people at the popular park on Saturday, February 27, after crowds were caught drinking and playing music.
No £200 fines were issued but Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping said that park patrols will be increased as a result of this weekend's "concerning" behaviour.
He said it was not just students but also families adopting the rule of six before it is allowed.
Nottingham Trent University student Tom Milburn, 21, told Nottinghamshire Live: "Students have been locked up in their dingy houses and we don't have gardens and that is why we come to places like the Arboretum."
Third year Nottingham Trent student Freya Rusby, 20, added: "The Arboretum is good for people's mental health. It is an escape as long as everyone stays in their household bubble.
"We did a lap around the park at the weekend. It was quite hectic. There was not a lot of places to sit down but everyone was enjoying themselves and socialising in groups.
Sam Fishbach, 21, who is also a Nottingham Trent University student, walked through the Arboretum at the weekend and saw the crowds.
He said: "I think it was hectic because we are not used to seeing so many people in one place, rather than people behaving irresponsibly.
"It is nearly a year since the first lockdown and it is a culture shock rather than unsafe. It was nice to see people about and not everyone has got a garden and the weather has been terrible.
"We can't go anywhere else."
Sisters Liz White, who used to live in the Arboretum, and Daphny White, of Carrington, enjoy walking through the park.
Liz White said: "The park is very well kept. There is nowhere else in Nottingham city centre, and we should count ourselves lucky.
"It is a nice place and where can people go on a lovely day. The litter left has been tided up."
Daphny White added: "I think people have just had enough. We have been kept in and it is the first day of spring and people have just had enough and wanted to get out and socIalise."
Jonathan Gribbin, Director of Public Health for Nottinghamshire said he didn't want the scenes at the weekend to "threaten the NHS once again."
He said: "As we start to enter spring with lighter days and warmer weather, exercising outdoors is more appealing and we encourage everyone to enjoy some fresh air and exercise.
"If you go out for exercise please remember it must be on your own, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
"Covid-19 rates in many parts of the East Midlands remain very high and Nottinghamshire is no exception to that.
"After all of the hard work people have put in, this is a concern because we know that high rates will leave us vulnerable to a resurgence which could threaten the NHS once again.
"Added to that is the fact that the dominant strain now is the B117 (Kent) variant which is more transmissible than what we were tackling in the early Autumn. Therefore we have to work all the harder to achieve the same level of suppression.
"Thank you to everyone in Nottinghamshire who is playing their part to protect themselves and others. We still have a long way to go and it is as important as ever to stay at home, following national guidance and hands face space measures."
Councillor Sally Longford, deputy leader of Nottingham City Council, added: "It was lovely to see such nice weather at the weekend and, of course, we want people to be able to enjoy our wonderful parks to get some fresh air and exercise.
"However, it’s really important to remind everyone that we remain in national lockdown until March 29, and until that time we need to stay at home as much as possible. It’s fine to head out once a day for exercise, but not yet for picnics or gatherings.
"The police are doing everything they can to keep us safe and we have to help them. To stop the spread of Covid in outdoor spaces means staying within your household or support bubble, or meeting just one other person for exercise.
"We’ve worked so hard in Nottingham and we must keep going. There is light at the end of the tunnel with the continued roll-out of the vaccine, but we can’t allow ourselves to relax the rules any further at this stage. Everyone wants to get back to normal as soon as possible and we have to work together to achieve that."
Summer is being 'put at risk' if Arboretum behaviour continues, crime commissioner warns
'We are on the final lap and we don't want to trip and fall'
Nottinghamshire's Police and Crime Commissioner fears summer is at risk if crowds of people descend on areas like the Arboretum during the spring months.
The park, just off Waverley Street, proved to be a very popular spot on Saturday, February 27, as warmer temperatures hit the city.
However, as more and more people began to gather into the afternoon, Nottinghamshire Police officers were called to disperse some of the larger crowds.
No £200 fines were issued, but there were worries about the numbers of people gathered together and the lack of social distancing.
PCC Paddy Tipping said: "I am worried and concerned and I saw the Arboretum and was talking to the force about it this morning.
"It is clear to me the fine weather has brought people out in larger groups and people are not following the rules. We are in the middle of the third lockdown.
"We want to go into the summer and put this behind us and people are putting it at risk.
"The Arboretum is the only one I am aware of where police had to go into a public park (this weekend).
"It is not just students. There was some bigger family groups out on Saturday and Sunday and the rule of six does come in until March and infection levels are still high.
"We are on the final lap and we don't want to trip and fall.
"We have got Covid police patrols that are very active and we will have to think of increasing them but people have got to police themselves."
Concerns have been raised across other parts of the county including Browtowe where a number of students are set to return to the Beeston campus this weekend.
Councillor Milan Radulovic, leader of Browtowe Borough Council, said: "It is relatively quiet but with a large student population there is concerns but we are working with the university to ensure they are informed and not to gather in numbers.
"I think it is extremely disappointing (by what I saw at the Arboretum). If there is another infection outbreak by this irresponsible behaviour.
"The county can't deal with another lockdown. It is as simple as that. It could finish and break us and we are already at breaking point.
"It would mean more businesses going bankrupt and that will have a profound impact on the economy."
Rushcliffe Borough Council said it was well prepared for the weekend of warm weather and stepped up patrols to ensure no problems were encountered.
Last June, guards were put on Bridgford Park following a rise in people flocking to the green space in the evening to drink, eat and play music.
There was also concerns about the lack of social distancing.
But leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council, Councillor Simon Robinson, said the local authority was well prepared after reading the weather forecast so this did not happen again.
He said: "Right across our parks we were very pleased the covid marshals were in place to help and advise people and kept our parks safe.
"We had no issues at any of the parks this weekend. Going forward, we are going to continue using Covid marshals to ensure these parks stay safe.
"We were well prepared and stepped up patrols this weekend and had a higher level of presence."