People in north-west London have been flouting government rules around social distancing, with some even breaking into sports courts despite fears around spreading coronavirus.

Harrow Council urged people to stop such behaviour as it is putting people’s lives at risk and could lead to tougher measures being implemented.

Its leader, Cllr Graham Henson, said: “This crisis isn’t a joke – it’s real and it’s affecting thousands of people across the country.

“The rule cannot be made any clearer. You must stay home unless it’s absolutely essential.

“While I’m pleased that many are following the rules to protect themselves and others, there are a few who are putting lives at risk by congregating in public. I ask these people to stop being selfish and think about other people.

“The law is in place to protect people and stop the spread of the virus. Stay at home or stay two metres apart from others if you have to go out for essential things.”

It comes after officers found locks on tennis courts had been tampered with alongside reports of others using gym equipment despite it being taped off.

Hillingdon Times:

Photo: Harrow Council

Several living in the borough said they were “shocked” at the “blatant disregard” for the rules outlined by the Government and local authorities around social distancing.

One woman said she saw groups of people working out on gym equipment and others socialising, drinking and playing football together.

She said she was verbally abused when she challenged them about their behaviour and that she was not the first to experience this.

Last week, the Government introduced stricter measures around leaving the house to help curb the spread of covid-19.

They include only leaving the house for medical needs, to buy essential food items, for exercise once a day or if it is necessary for you to get to work.

Councils across the country then moved to shut playgrounds, sports courts and gym equipment in parks and said police could take enforcement action if they were used.

In Brent, the council said its enforcement teams had been working with the police to ensure that people “stay home, stay closed”.

Cllr Krupa Sheth, responsible for the environment at Brent Council, said: “Our dedicated teams are on the ground helping to spread the message so that we can stop the spread of this pandemic.

“While the majority of us are heeding the message, unfortunately a minority seem to be disregarding the seriousness of this and putting lives at risk.”