SALISBURY street pastors are suspending patrols due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The decision was made last week before the government's announcement advising pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes to close to prevent the spread of the virus.

The street pastors patrol the city's streets on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to 4pm - helping support people who are upset, calm aggressive situations, give directions and carry out basic first aid.

Brian Percey, Salisbury Street Pastors coordinator, said: "Our management team decided that we were going to suspend patrols. We took advice from PubWatch and the police."

Mr Percey says the street pastors considered running daytime patrols but were advised not to. He added: "From the advice that was coming from the police we decided that we would suspend patrols until further notice."

Last year, the Salisbury Street Pastors celebrated a decade of being a friendly face on the city's streets.

"We are in our 11th year now," said Mr Percey. "They are absolutely gutted [at having to suspend patrols].

"I've got sixty street pastors but of those sixty street pastors when we started ten years ago there were 27 - we've grown substantially. But of the 27 original street pastors I've still got nine who have served a decade so they have done every single month for the last decade.

"They have spent over 1,000 hours looking after people on the streets of Salisbury and for them it is gutting. They just want to care for people.

"Some of my street pastors are looking at alternatives. Some were contacting Alabare and the foodbank to see how they could continue to serve Salisbury under this present climate."

"We'll still be serving Salisbury but in different ways," he added.

Salisbury Street Pastors is one of the partners in the Purple Flag partnership for Salisbury. Purple Flag is a national initiative, similar to the Blue Flag for beaches, indicating a town or City has a vibrant and safe economy from 5pm to 5am.

On the impact the situation will have on the city's nighttime economy, Mr Percey said: "Salisbury is very resilient. After the Novichok incident footfall figures dropped. They dropped quite substantially, we went down by about 20 per cent on the nighttime economy. A month ago we had one of the most vibrant nighttime economies in the country - not in terms of numbers but in terms of percentage. We were ahead of what the national average was for footfall percentages and so Salisbury's nighttime economy will be resilient - it will bounce back.

"I know PubWatch are working hard and the landlords and licensees are doing their best for the staff. It is just a tough time. We've just got to keep going. In some ways because of what Salisbury has been through in the last two years we are probably more prepared and more resilient than other cities. Nobody would have wanted to have gone through the situation we have been in in the last two years and seen the bottom of our nighttime economy disappear but we have done that once and Salisbury will bounce back stronger than it is."

Mr Percey says that although street pastor patrols have been suspended the management team will be constantly reviewing the situation, adding: "It will be a constant review. As soon as we can put patrols back out on the street and the police agree it is safe to do so then we will do that."

From today (Monday, March 23), Salisbury Street Pastors are part of Waitrose's green token scheme so shoppers can show their support for the voluntary group.