DUDLEY police, health and council bosses have urged residents to stay at home over the long Easter weekend in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Residents are being urged to stay inside and follow social distancing rules, amid fears people will be tempted to go outside and socialise over the warm bank holiday weekend.

Government restrictions have been in place since March 23 and state people should only leave their homes for limited purposes, including one form of exercise a day, to fetch basic necessities infrequently, for medical needs and to go to work but only where it is not possible to work from home.

If outside, people should stay two metres apart from others and no more than two people should gather in public, unless they are members of the same household.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: "Preventing the spread of coronavirus is a national effort and one we are all responsible for. For a vast majority of us the government guidelines have become the new norm and we are slowly getting used to life with these restrictions in place. We understand what’s at stake if we ignore the rules.

"But for those who still don’t understand the gravity of the situation, let me remind you, that this weekend isn’t your normal Bank Holiday weekend. It is not one for meeting up with friends and family or heading out for a day at the park. It’s one where we continue to do our bit to protect the NHS by staying at home and saving lives.

"For now a majority of our parks and open spaces will remain open and people are welcome to walk, cycle or run through them but they must not stay or congregate under any circumstances.

"Himley and Hall and Park is already closed to the public and I have ordered Stevens Park in Quarry Bank to close for a minimum of 48 hours to deter people from congregating there. This is something that is constantly under review and I will not hesitate to close other parks if people are unable to follow these very simple rules."

Police have been given extra powers to enforce the measures but Dudley's police boss said officers are only using enforcement powers as a last resort.

Chief Superintendent Sally Bourner, Neighbourhood Policing Unit Commander for Dudley police, said: "I would like to thank the vast majority of people across our borough who continue to act responsibly in line with government restrictions. Our officers are patrolling across our borough engaging with people, explaining the restrictions and encouraging people to comply, with enforcement being a last resort. We are working closely with Dudley Council and other partners to ensure everyone continues to play their part in saving lives and protecting the NHS."

Dr David Hegarty, chair of the Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group added: "GP practices across Dudley will be open for business as usual on both Good Friday and Easter Monday if you or your family are unwell. In support of this local pharmacies will be open for patients too.

"Our staff are doing all they can to support local patients while our local hospital continue to support those in most need, so as the long Easter weekend approaches it is important to remember it’s vitally important that we carry on with the measures that we have got in place in order to protect the NHS and to save lives.

"Thank you to everyone for working with us, this is a collective community effort and I’m proud of the positive response from the vast majority of people in Dudley during these unprecedented times."