A DEDICATED “Covid car” will see police officers patrolling “gathering hot spots” to ensure no large groups are meeting.

Officers in Southend are preparing to carry out new targeted patrols across the borough to ensure people are abiding by the “rule of six”.

Legislation was brought into force on Monday meaning no more than six people can meet up at once in response to a spike in Covid-19 cases across England.

Chief Inspector Ian Hughes, District Commander for Southend, met with the Southend Community Policing Team on Monday to draw up plans for where the patrols in the “Covid car” will go.

He said: “The vast majority of people across Southend continue to do the right thing and help protect each other from the spread of Covid-19 and I want to thank them for it.

“We’re now all being asked to go a little bit further and not meet friends and families in groups of more than six.

“As part of that officers from the Community Policing Team will, as part of their patrols, will visit locations around the district to ensure the new Government regulations are being adhered to, in particular areas where we know large groups of people have previously gathered.

“Our approach has been, and continues to be to engage with the public, explain the regulations, and encourage people to do the right thing.

“Where it is absolutely necessary, reasoned conversations have failed, and it’s right to do so, we will issue people with fines.”

The police boss was quick to praise those who have followed restrictions so far.

He added: “I know the last few months have been really challenging for everyone and when we’re off duty we’re sticking to the regulations too.

“I would urge everyone to keep doing what they’ve been doing, it’s really making a difference to protect each other.”

While Martin Terry, councillor responsible for community safety at Southend Council, insisted now is not the time to be complacent.

He said: “The real enemy is now Covid complacency, and not the virus. If people do not adhere to the rules there is going to have to be consequences.

“Southend has done relatively well in the big picture but the government are quite nervous. They’re really worried about the possibility of a second wave and we should all be worried about it.

“We haven’t got rid of the virus, we’ve controlled it.”