Police in London have been criticised for taking part in a crowded “clap for carers” celebration on Westminster Bridge.
A video shared on Twitter by a junior doctor shows members of the public and emergency services workers crammed close together as they show their appreciation for the NHS.
In the recording, which has been viewed more than two million times, people fail to stick to the two-metre social distancing rule brought in to help curb the spread of coronavirus as they cheer and applaud near St Thomas’ Hospital, where prime minister Boris Johnson was recently treated after contracting the virus.
Emergency services vehicles lined up along the bridge can be heard sounding their sirens in the footage, while a separate video shared by the Metropolitan Police shows commissioner Cressida Dick joining in with the celebrations.
Dozens of people have questioned why those in the crowd were allowed to stand so close together when benches have been taped off and parks have been closed in some places to keep people apart during the lockdown.
Dr Damir Rafi, who filmed the video on Thursday night, said: “I’m a doctor working at the hospital that’s right there. And yes, I was also somewhat perplexed by the lack of social distancing...”
One Twitter user questioned whether the virus is “having a break as it’s 8pm on a Thursday”, while another said the clip was “the ultimate irony”.
Another person said they were “forever in debt” to the NHS, but that the incident “makes no sense to me”, adding: “Being told to refrain from washing the car but congregate on a crowded bridge every night at 8pm.”
Another man tweeted: “No standing still, no sunbathing in the UK, but clapping is fine stood side by side, just need a few hugs & high 5s.”
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Officers, along with other emergency service workers, came together last night on Westminster Bridge to celebrate the work of all key workers.
“A large number of members of the public also gathered to express their gratitude.
“While many people adhered to social distancing guidance, it appears that some did not.
“We regularly remind our officers of the importance of social distancing where practical, and will continue do so.”
Similar scenes were also seen in Bristol, where members of the public gathered close together outside Bristol Royal Infirmary.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) issued new guidance to police last Thursday amid continued confusion over what is a “reasonable excuse” to be outside under the new law.
The updated guidance states picnics during long walks are legal but sitting on a park bench for lengthy periods may violate the coronavirus lockdown.
It also confirmed people can buy “non-essential items” from supermarkets, but cautions against leaving the home for DIY supplies.
The document states that the Health Protection Regulations 2020 “specify maintenance and upkeep”, and that going out and “buying paint and brushes, simply to redecorate a kitchen” would be illegal.
Despite police forces telling people not to travel to national parks and beauty spots, the CPS confirmed it is “lawful to drive for exercise” and to exercise outside more than once a day was likely to be reasonable.
But the document, which applies to England only, said “far more time [should be] spent walking than driving” in order for the journey to be lawful.
“Stopping to rest or to eat lunch while on a long walk” is also deemed reasonable, but a “short walk to a park bench, when the person remains seated for a much longer period” is not.
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