Wirral residents should follow government guidelines to stay at home and avoid travelling to local beauty spots.

That's the message from police forces in Wirral, Parkgate & Neston and Cheshire, after walkers were told to go home from popular outdoor destinations across the weekend.

The request has been reinforced this morning after the Directors of Public health across Cheshire and Merseyside released a joint statement urging people to abide by the latest lockdown rules and stay at home.

It comes as Covid cases have alarmingly increased in communities putting NHS hospitals under extreme pressure.

Wirral Globe: Walkers in West Kirby on Monday morning. Photo: Craig ManningWalkers in West Kirby on Monday morning. Photo: Craig Manning

Ian Ashworth, current Chair of the Cheshire & Merseyside Directors of Public Health Board, said: “The next few weeks are going to be extremely difficult and it will be some time until we see the impact of the lockdown take effect.

"People need to stay at home as much as possible. Only shop when necessary. Exercise away from other people. If you cannot work from home and have a symptom free test centre in your area, get tested regularly so you can self-isolate before symptoms show.

"We are working hard with health and government partners to speed up and unblock barriers to the rollout of the vaccine for the most vulnerable groups but this will not happen overnight.

"We now have a number of licensed vaccines which will mean more vaccines becoming available locally. In the meantime, we need people to double their efforts to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

Wirral Globe: Police patrolling the parade in Park GatePolice patrolling the parade in Park Gate

Under the rules, people are strongly requested to stay at home and only leave the house for essential reasons such as getting a COVID test, food shopping, work, education, exercise or helping someone vulnerable. A full list of what is permitted is available at www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Local police forces are especially concerned about people congregating at local beauty spots - an issue that was heightened by sunny conditions on Saturday.

Yesterday, Parkgate & Neston Police tweeted: "It was a clear sunny afternoon yesterday, which meant hundreds of people visited Parkgate and several of them were told to go home.

"When will people get the message that we are in Lockdown and they have been told to stay home! Over 80,000 dead - stay home!"

Wirral Globe: Leasowe Bay is another popular destination for walkers. Photo: Craig ManningLeasowe Bay is another popular destination for walkers. Photo: Craig Manning

Patrols were conducted again on Sunday and although more groups of people were told to return home, problems were not on the same scale as Saturday.

In a post on the Wirral Police Facebook post said: "In response to complaints from the public we are urging people to stay at home. Please do not drive to local beauty spots or open spaces for the purpose of meeting people and walking.

"We must do everything we can as a community to protect one another. For those people who are following all the regulations of this lockdown we would like to thank you and encourage you to continue."

The Covid-19 vaccination programme has seen over a million vulnerable people and those that care for them vaccinated so far.

The Public Health Directors say that vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and an effective vaccine is the best way to protect people from Covid.

Members of the public will be invited by the NHS when it’s their turn for a vaccination and it is important that everyone who is offered the vaccine takes it to protect themselves and others.

Directors urge those waiting for their vaccine to be patient and not contact the NHS or their GP surgery as it will take time for the vaccine to be rolled out to all priority groups.

The statement adds: "If residents follow the rules and stay at home, then lockdown restrictions will end sooner and people can look forward to better times ahead.

"Directors would like to thank everyone who has been doing their bit for so long, and understand they desperately wish to see an end to the restrictions, but it's more important than ever that people now put in that extra effort to keep friends, family and communities safe."

The number of patients being treated for Covid-19 at Wirral University Teaching Hospital has more than doubled since Christmas Day and two thirds of the beds at Countess of Chester Hospital are now occupied by patients who have tested positive for the virus.

If you develop symptoms of Covid (fever, new continuous cough or loss/change of taste or smell) you can obtain a test by visiting nhs.uk/coronavirus or calling 119.

If your test is positive you must follow the guidance including self-isolating immediately. More information on self-isolating can be found at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19