POLICE in Cumbria will act to enforce the government's strict new 'social distancing' rules as the battle against coronavirus enters a new phase, one of the county's most senior officers has warned.

"I strongly urge people to follow the Government's instructions," said Cumbria's Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery.

"Social distancing will save lives and I urge everyone in Cumbria to ask whether they are limiting themselves to only essential travel."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night addressed the nation about the coronavirus pandemic, announcing the toughest measures yet to reduce contact between people.

These have come into effect immediately.

The restrictions include:

* People must stay at home, except for very limited purposes;

* All non-essential shops and community spaces will close;

* And all gatherings of more than two people in public are to stop;

Mr Johnson said every citizen must comply with the measures and those who refuse to are being warned that police will have powers to enforce the rules.

Assistant Chief Constable Slattery, who chairs the Cumbria Local Resilience Forum, said: "Last night the Prime Minister issued direct instructions to the public to follow the new social distancing measures. These instructions are in place to protect the NHS and our most vulnerable members.

"We are all living in a national health emergency and we are all in this together.

"I would ask anybody running a business at the moment to consider whether it is really essential in the national effort to fight this virus. If it is not, then I’d ask that they consider closing for the next three weeks to protect their workforce and the public from spread of the virus."

He strongly urged everybody to follow the government's instructions.

The officer said: "Social distancing will save lives and I urge everyone in Cumbria to ask whether they are limiting themselves to only essential travel.

"These measures are in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus and I urge and expect everyone to comply with them.

"Police officers in the United Kingdom police through the consent of the community and will give advice to people where necessary.

"But where people are wilfully ignoring these instructions and refusing to engage in the nationwide effort to fight the spread of coronavirus, officers will take action.

"You will see increased patrols around the county in the coming days and weeks as our officers carry out their duty to protect life and improve safety and well-being for all Cumbrians."