'Collecting Drugs is Not Essential Travel': Suspect Arrested After Being Found Hiding with Drugs in Car During Lockdown

A police force in the U.K. are advising people that driving to pick up illegal drugs is not considered essential travel after arresting a suspect for possession charges amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown

The Essex Police Operational Support Group Twitter account detailed the arrest which occurred in Southend, around 40 miles east of London, on April 1.

The force described the suspect's vehicle as driving toward a police unit which had been carrying out a traffic check when it turned quickly to avoid them, hitting a sidewalk in the process. The female driver then got out of the silver Mini and fled. Officers later located the suspect hiding in a parking lot.

Essex Police confirmed that a 52-year-old woman was then arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine, possession of cannabis and drug driving. She has since been released under investigation.

"Collecting drugs is not essential travel FYI," the force added. Essex Police have been contacted for further comment.

The U.K. has implemented a number of measures for its citizens in order to help combat the spread of COVID-19, including only leaving the house for essential journeys such as work, or to purchase food or medicine.

People are also allowed to go outside once a day for exercise.

The arrest occurred as Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Wells described how people are using coronavirus as a "weapon" following an incident in which three officers were kicked, coughed and spat on.

The officers were assaulted after being called to an incident in which a supermarket employee was attacked during their shift on March 28.

"Unbelievably, this weekend we have seen suspects using the COVID-19 virus as a weapon against officers—who, in these incredibly challenging times continue in their duty to keep the community safe," Wells said.

"In just a 12-hour period, we had officers who had been kicked, spat and coughed at after responding to emergency calls from shop workers, who were also just doing their job.

"Fortunately incidents like these remain rare but anyone who decides to assault an emergency worker, by any means, will be arrested, will be brought into custody and will be put before a court."

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A general view of the Essex Police Headquarters building on October 31, 2019 in Chelmsford, Essex, England. Essex Police are reminding people that driving to pick up illegal drugs is not considered essential travel amid the coronavirus lockdown. John Keeble/Getty

Sergeant Stephen Taylor, Essex Police Federation chairman, added: "Our role is to help people and keep them safe and there are simply no excuses for assaulting officers. To be spat and coughed at during these unprecedented times is not acceptable."

There are nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.K., with 2,367 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 179 people have managed to recover from the virus.

The map below, provided by Statista, shows the global spread of COVID-19 cases as of April 1.

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Statista

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.