A council official has warned it is “absolutely critical to be responsible” after families were pictured tightly packed together in a park.

Photos taken on Sunday - a day before it was announced England would go into a third lockdown - show a lack of social distancing in Oxhey Activity Park, with residents appearing to stand closer than two metres together.

It comes as the new and more infectious strain of coronavirus continues to spread, with Watford’s infection rate nearing 1,000 cases per 100,000 population.

Speaking in a Covid-19 press conference this morning, Justine Hoy, Head of Community Protection for Watford Borough Council, pleaded with people to keep a two-metre distance from other people "as a minimum" and to follow coronavirus rules.

On parks, she said: “Certainly from a local authority perspective we have employed staff to patrol our parks, including Oxhey Activity Park, to advise and take action when necessary and we will be increasing those patrols if necessary."

Watford Observer:

Watford Observer:

People in Oxhey Activity Park on Sunday - Photo credit: Watford Observer Camera Club Member Robert Stapleton

England's third national lockdown has legally come into force today (Wednesday) to bring down infections, with MPs set to vote on the measures later.

Under the national lockdown restrictions, it is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble.

When people are on their own, they can exercise in a public outdoor place with one person from another household.

Ms Hoy said: “Rules do keep changing and it is now very clear what people should and should not be doing. We shouldn’t have those groups of people congregating for periods of time under the current regulations, so we are also looking at how we can encourage people specifically in Watford – and I am sure other areas will be doing it - to take their exercise or time out of the house in less busy areas.

“We have to recognise that people need to get outside for their own health and wellbeing for their exercise, but we want them to do that as safely as possible.

“While we learn more about this new variant and while the infection rates are so high and while we get a vaccine rolled out it is absolutely critical for us to all be responsible and to act as though you have the infection when out and then you will treat other people in a way that keeps them safe and ultimately you as well.”

Jim McManus, Hertfordshire's director of public health, added: "Some people are behaving as if the vaccine is here and its fine. That’s completely counter productive.

"The longer we fail to adhere to the guidance the more the virus will circulate, the more we will be in lockdown, the more NHS staff will be diverted from vaccination to care and the more risk we have of getting virus variants that will resist the vaccine."