A police boss says a new get-tough approach is essential to crack down on Covid rule-breakers who are putting lives at risk.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones spoke out after “selfish” people flouted the regulations and flocked to beauty spots across the region.
On Friday, two people had to be rescued North East Wales Search and Rescue (NEWSAR) team after becoming “disorientated” in severe weather conditions during a walk up Moel Famau on the Flintshire border.
The pair had gone for a walk from home but they raised the alarm by phoning the policing after losing their bearings as conditions deteriorated rapidly due to snow and poor visibility.
By Saturday lunchtime more than 100 cars had been turned away from Moel Famau, with some driving past “road closed” signs.
Meanwhile, in Snowdonia car parks have been closed to deter visitors.
Until now the police response has been guided by the so-called four Es, to engage and find out why the rules were being broken, explain the rules and rise, encourage people to behave responsibly and to only take enforcement action as a last resort.
The regulations allow for fixed penalty notices can be issued with fines ranging from £60 to £10,000.
According to Mr Jones, a former police inspector, it was now time for a tougher approach from the police and other agencies.
He said: “I would like to commend most people for behaving responsibly at this difficult time but those who choose not to can expect to be held to account.
“Unfortunately, there are far too many selfish people who are flouting the guidelines and they are turbo-charging the spread of this deadly virus.
“Their actions are totally irresponsible and life-threatening. If they have no regard for their own health, they should think of their loved ones.
“It is now time to forget the mantra of Engage, Encourage and Educate and focus on Enforcement so we can clamp down on the Covid rule breakers and prevent this reckless behaviour.
“The stay home and stay safe message is all more important because the new mutant strain of Covid-19 is even more infectious.
“This has inevitably ramped up the threat of community transmission, with 70 per cent of cases in North Wales linked the new variant.
“As a consequence, the people of North Wales are at risk like never before.
“Being a police officer can be a difficult and dangerous at the best of times but North Police is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic.
“The last thing our officers need is for their time be wasted by selfish people who think they are above the law.
“It is totally unacceptable that our brave and selfless officers are themselves being put unnecessarily at risk as we have seen with examples of them getting stuck in the snow trying to come to the rescue of these foolish people.”
A Welsh Government spokesman reinforced the message, saying: “Cases of coronavirus are very high in Wales at the moment and there is a new strain of the virus circulating, which is highly infectious and moving quickly.
“At alert level four, exercise should always be undertaken from home, unless you have special circumstances which requires some flexibility – such as disability or autism.
“The more people gather, the greater the risk of spreading or catching the virus.”