Authorities are warning visitors to Richmond Park to respect physical distancing measures after concerns over the spread of coronavirus at the park were voiced by people living in the area.

MP Sarah Olney wrote to park authorities seeking assurances after a number of her constituents suggested groups meeting at park entrances this weekend and queueing at the food and drink stalls inside were not observing physical distancing rules and could lead to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The Richmond politician said residents were "deeply worried" by the risk of transmitting the virus in the parks if the strict lockdown rules currently in force across the UK were not adhered to inside.

"Many of my constituents are deeply worried by what they saw in Richmond Park this past weekend," she said.

"Aside from people generally congregating on paths and around gates, one of their biggest concerns is the situation with the park’s food and drink facilities, with visitors – many of whom not wearing masks – gathering in tight spaces whilst queuing to be served.

"I have written to Richmond Park to ask what measures they can put in place to create a safer system and one in which people are better able to socially distance," Olney added.

New coronavirus infections remain high in Richmond, though the borough did report fewer new cases in the seven days up to January 8 than the week before.

According to Public Health England (PHE), there were 1,074 new infections in the week up to January 8.

That was down 237 or 18.1 per cent less than the previous week, suggesting the third national lockdown measures were having an impact on lowering transmission.

Responding to a request from the RTT on Covid concerns in the parks, a spokesperson urged visitors to stick to the rules and not gather in groups:

"During this new lockdown, the parks will continue to remain open as they have done throughout the pandemic, and the opening and closing times remain as advertised on our website.

"The parks provide vital green spaces where local visitors can get some fresh air, enjoy the natural environment and do their daily exercise - just a 20 minute walk in the park can boost mental and physical wellbeing.

"The latest Government guidance makes it clear that if you leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.

"You may leave your local area for a legally permitted reason, such as for work.

"It is important that people stick to the rules and only visit parks local to them, where they must continue to observe social distancing by staying 2m apart from others; can exercise once a day with their household (or support bubble) or with one other person; and must not gather in groups."

Olney for her part added that her intervention on the issue was "not about closing the park" but rather "recognising the immense danger posed by the new strain and acknowledging the surging rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths...It’s about making sure that measures are put in place to ensure proper social distancing can take place."