POLICE officers in Hampshire are to continue trying to engage with people flouting government guidelines before fining them, the assistant chief constable has announced.

Scott Chilton added that "personal responsibility is now key", adding that their top priority is to "reduce the spread of this infection and protect the NHS".

Boris Johnson announced last weekend that lockdown measures would ease across England, allowing for people to go and exercise as much as they like, and even being able to meet another person from outside of their home, should they stay two metres apart.

It's also paved the way for facilities such as garden centres, golf courses, tennis courts and athletics tracks to reopen in Basingstoke.

However, the Prime Minister also said that police would be given more powers to fine people that flout these rules, with police able to issue a £100 penalty.

However, Assistant Chief Constable Chilton has reassured the public that his officers will "continue to engage, explain, encourage and, only as a last resort, enforce".

In a statement, he said: "The efforts of the public over the past few weeks have meant police officers have not had to widely enforce the Government regulations – thank you. I am confident the vast majority will continue to do their bit and follow the guidance in this next stage.

"As many of us are now able to spend much more time outdoors and travel to work, each of us need to take responsibility for doing that within the restrictions set out by the Government.

"As a police force, we are no different to anyone else, in that our priority, and the public’s, is to reduce the spread of this infection and protect the NHS.

"Personal responsibility is now key - think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others. Keep in mind the purpose of the regulations and the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives. "

As previously reported, officers across the county have had to dish out almost 200 fines in the space of a month.

Figures show that 197 fines were issued between March 27 and April 27 for people who are flouting the lockdown rules.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said across forces in England, 8,877 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) have been recorded since March 27.

"Our overall aim is to continue to encourage and support our communities to comply fully with the restrictions," ACC Chilton continued.

"Officers will be focusing on those activities that remain prohibited including unlawful gatherings, travelling to visit others in their homes. We will use common sense and discretion to determine what’s reasonable. We can now issue fines for £100 in the first instance to those not adhering to Government guidelines. However, officers will continue to engage, explain, encourage and, only as a last resort, enforce.

"Ultimately, we are all in this together so it’s important that the public listen to the advice as this is about all of us continuing to limit the spread of the virus.”

"Officers are also working hard to keep us all safe from the full range of crimes in what remain challenging circumstances so we would ask everyone to work with us and remember that if you need our help we are here for you."