A POLICE chief who has led efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic has urged people to stay safe as pubs and restaurants reopen.

Assistant Chief Constable Dave Miller has been chairman of the Sussex Resilience Forum responsible for getting protective gear and supplies to the frontline in the county.

He wants people to continue to observe social distancing, and plan ahead for visits to pubs or restaurants, and avoid large gatherings that risk spreading the disease.

His warning comes as businesses continue to reopen following more than three months of closures due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Miller has helped bring together the NHS, emergency services, councils, Armed Forces and charities to prevent deaths in Sussex and get vital supplies to the frontline and those most vulnerable.

He said: “What is important now, is that we all continue to support our communities in preventing the spread of the virus, which remains a real risk.

“Our businesses and communities are understandably welcoming the further easing of restrictions planned.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the additional freedom this will bring but our plea is to do this safely and to avoid placing additional strain on emergency services and the health service.

“The fact that the re-opening coincides with the 72nd anniversary of our health service, which has demonstrated its incredible resilience and relentless care throughout this pandemic, makes our message even more important.

“Please enjoy our pubs and restaurants sensibly, take note of the new restrictions in place, and avoid large crowds to keep each other safe.”

His calls have been echoed by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne. She said: “We are now benefiting from the sacrifices we have made to curb the spread of the virus and are slowly able to return to some normality.

“I understand that people will want to take advantage of the opportunity this weekend brings to meet up with friends and family at their favourite restaurants or pubs that they have not visited in months.

“However, it is still important that we do so safely with social distancing in mind at all times.”

Police will be out on patrol, and both Mrs Bourne and Mr Miller have reminded people that abuse and assaults of emergency workers will not be tolerated.

Mr Miller said the experience of venues will be different, and urged people to plan ahead.