POLICE forces up and down the country are preparing themselves for the anticipated easing of lockdown restrictions this weekend.

I know that many people will be rejoicing at the prospect of a trip to the pub or an appointment at the hairdressers.

And it is certainly true that the opportunity to reopen businesses and allow workers to return from furlough is something to be welcomed.

However, the reality of continuing to maintain a safe distance from others is of paramount importance.

You only have to look at the emerging situation in Leicester to see how quickly and easily COVID19 can spread, if given the opportunity.

And for police forces, the prospect of trying to keep our communities safe when faced with a potentially volatile mix of warm weather, increased alcohol consumption and a population who may feel they have spent enough time at home and want to embrace the chance to socialise with friends at a bar or pub, is a concerning one.

Therefore, I am urging everyone to approach this weekend with caution.

Just because you can now visit a pub or stay over at a friend’s house, doesn’t mean you have to do it all this weekend.

The Government has been clear that it will be keeping a close eye on the infection rate, and any spike in COVID19 cases could see certain restrictions returning once again.

We all need to tread carefully and be responsible.

It feels that this new phase will rely heavily on all of us being sensible and using our common sense.

On a similar note, there are concerns that this weekend will see an increase in other types of incidents, including domestic abuse.

It is a sad and distressing reality that for many people, staying at home could place them in a dangerous position, at risk of abuse or injury from those they live with.

This has been a common theme throughout the pandemic, with reports of domestic abuse increasing across the country during lockdown.

Therefore, I am pleased to see that local charities and organisations which support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence are receiving additional funding.

A total of £300,000 has been allocated by the Ministry of Justice and I have been involved with the process of ensuring that money reaches some wonderful good causes here in Swindon and Wiltshire.

Twenty organisations, including Swindon’s Women’s Aid and Revival, the Wiltshire Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, will receive much-needed funds to help them continue their vital work.

You can read the full details of this funding on my website www.wiltshire-pcc.gov.uk