STREETS were deserted as people across Colchester and north Essex did their bit to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new UK lockdown measures with police stepping in to deal with those breaking the rules.

People are only allowed to leave their home for limited purposes including shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day, medical need, to care for a vulnerable person or travelling to work only when absolutely necessary.

Mr Johnson said police will act to stop any gatherings larger than two (not including members of the same household) by handing out fines and dispersing gatherings.

Yesterday, Colchester and the surrounding area was a ghost town as people heeded the Prime Minister’s instructions.

Major routes including the A12 and the A120 were free of rush hour traffic and barely a soul could be seen in Colchester town centre and the railway station sat empty

Major routes including the A12 and the A120 were free of rush hour traffic and barely a soul could be seen in Colchester town centre and the railway station sat empty.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex Hospital Trust, which runs Colchester, hospital urged people to stay home.

In a Tweet he said: “I’m not sure which bit of ‘Stay at home’ people are finding it difficult to understand.

“It’s simple. Unless you stay at home more people will die. Please reinforce the message.”

Shop shutters were down across the town centre.

Bagel Dough, which opened in Sir Isaac’s Walk earlier this month, thanked customers for their support.

In a message online they said: “Due to the current climate, we will be closing as of today until further notice.

“Our team would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you for all of your support and we can’t wait to be back up and running again with you guys.

“During this period of being closed, we will be thinking of new DOUGHlicious ideas for when we open again, so keep your eyes peeled. Take care of yourselves and see you soon.”

Martin Leatherdale, manager of Red Lion shopping centre, said: “With lock down now in force, we are resolute in supporting the government and community to help save lives.

"As well as partnering with the local authorities to offer up space to the NHS and relevant initiatives, we are also collaborating with the Colchester Town Policing Team and Colchester Business Improvement District to sustain a secure and safe environment over the coming weeks.

"To deliver essential services to the community we currently offer Post Office, Boots, M&S, WHSmith and Holland and Barrett stores – albeit, this situation remains fluid so I would recommend checking daily with individual retailers as to their opening times.

"The resilience of the teams at Lion Walk has been incredible, and the tenacity of our key workers phenomenal. When the time is right we will work tirelessly to deliver the best ever shopping experience for our customers.”

David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, renewed calls for people to follow the rules.

He said: “The overriding imperative to keep people safe during the outbreak means we had had to take a number of difficult decisions.

“Disruption to and in some cases the closure of our services is inevitable and I know the public will appreciate the position we are in, where we are left with little choice if we are to stem the spread of coronavirus and protect our NHS from coming under intolerable pressure.”