Watford leaders have warned people to stay at home - or more lives will be lost.

Elected mayor Peter Taylor and Watford MP Dean Russell say they are increasingly worried about the number of reports of young people congregating in parks.

The message from the two politicians is clear – stay at home, unless it is absolutely necessary to be outdoors.

Mr Taylor is worried about the strain the spread of coronavirus is having on Watford General Hospital, which has reported four deaths linked to the virus.

In a bid to protect patients, West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, banned visitors from its sites except for parents of paediatric patients and birthing partners.

Watford Observer:

Mr Taylor says he has received several calls about groups of young people gathering in Cassiobury Park and Harwoods Recreation Ground – blatantly ignoring the Government’s rules not to go out with more than one person.

Watford police reported on Tuesday that they received reports of people playing cricket and queuing for ice creams.

Watford Observer:

Harwoods Rec Ground in West Watford. Watford playgrounds have been closed off for public use

Mr Taylor said: “More lives will be lost unless we all stay at home.

“Residents are contacting me telling me there are youths meeting in large groups. It’s incredibly irresponsible. That’s how the virus mixes. The more people that do this, the more lives will be lost.

“The NHS is telling us we are getting to a critical stage. Our hospital is working flat out. What people are doing by going out and gathering is really reckless.

“My message to parents is I know it’s quite difficult to keep kids home permanently but this is about saving lives. You must keep your children at home.”

Watford’s MP echoed the mayor and warned of the “severe consequences” going out can have on the most vulnerable.

He added: “Can I thank the vast majority of people in Watford who are following the Government guidelines.

“I find it shocking to hear about the few who are not obliging by the rules. NHS instructions are clear: do not spend time with people outside your household (unless absolutely necessary) and stay two metres apart.

“Stay home, save lives. I urge people to make the lives of our police, NHS, and key workers easier, healthier, and safer by following what has been said by the Government.”

From today, police have powers to fine anyone out without a good reason who refuses to move on. The fine is £30.

Leisure centres across the town are closed, High Street shops are shut, intu Watford is partially closed and there is no Hollywood Bowl, Cineworld, or McDonald’s to visit right now.

Watford Observer:

Restaurants, Hollywood Bowl, and Cineworld, are all shut at intu Watford

Just a handful of stores and amenities in shopping parades and retail parks, as well as supermarkets and parks, so there is little reason for people to be out unless they are exercising or working.

The coronavirus death toll in the UK is 463 as of 9am on Thursday. This includes four patients at Watford General Hospital, a man his 80s, a woman in her 80s, a man in his 70s, and a woman in her 70s.