Coronavirus: Britons continue to flout lockdown rules by sunbathing despite warnings

UK government warns all outdoor exercise could be banned if measures are not taken seriously

Kate Ng
Sunday 05 April 2020 16:31
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Police patrol parks and tell people not to sunbathe in London as sunny weather hits UK

Warm weather has proven to be too tempting for the British public, many of whom have flouted coronavirus lockdown rules by flocking to parks to lie in the sun.

Photos have emerged of dozens of people sunbathing, some in large groups, despite repeated warnings from authorities not to do so.

Temperatures over the weekend are among the warmest recorded so far this year, but the public has been urged by authorities not to be tempted to flout the rules and be out of their homes for longer than necessary.

After 3,000 people visited Brockwell Park, in south London, on Saturday, Lambeth Council made the decision to close the park as the number of people who were sunbathing was “unacceptable”.

The council said: “We are sorry to take this decision. This wouldn’t need to happen if people followed the clear instructions from the government. We are doing this for the wider safety of the public.”

Parks are not the only public area having trouble with a large volume of people. Epping Forest tweeted they have had to close their car parks “due to overcrowding”.

It said: “Police are redirecting cars to go home and stay local. The Forest is still open for locally-based exercise if you access on foot or bicycle.”

On Sunday morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the public that the government has been “absolutely clear” that no one should be going outside unless it is for medical reasons, to buy food, to go to work or to exercise.

“Of course I understand how difficult this is,” he added during an interview on Sky News. “But the problem is that when you go out, it’s not only that you might directly interact with someone closer than two metres, it’s also that you can spread the virus through touching something which somebody else then touches, or you could pick it up that way.

Members of the public relax in the sun in Regents Park, London

“So we’re crystal clear in the guidance of that people should and shouldn’t do. That guidance is backed up in law, it is not a request, it is a requirement in law and people need to follow it.”

Mr Hancock also warned the UK government could ban outdoor exercise altogether if members of the public continue to flout the social distancing guidelines.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, he said: “If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home then you’ve got to follow the rules and the vast majority of people are following the rules. Let’s not have a minority spoiling it for everybody.”

Members of the public relax in the sun despite repeated warnings not to

Council authorities all over the country have reiterated the guidelines on social distancing and advised people to stay at home.

Liverpool City council said: "If you are thinking of heading to one of our parks today: DON'T picnic, DON'T sunbathe, DON'T play sports."

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville urged people to stick to the guidelines and said: “Parks are a lifeline for Hackney – together we can keep them safe and open.”

Peter John, leader of Southwark Council in London, said: "Today - please do NOT congregate, sunbathe, picnic, or barbecue in Southwark parks. STOP the spread of this disease and SAVE LIVES."

The UK has been under lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus since 19 March, with all restaurants, pubs and shops closed and non-essential workers told to stay home. As of Sunday, 47,806 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with 4,934 deaths.

Those who have chosen to ignore the rules have been criticised harshly on social media, including by Piers Morgan.

Mr Morgan commented on a video of sunbathers on Twitter, calling them “traitors to every NHS worker. He also said in another tweet: “If you go out today to sunbathe, you are a selfish, reckless b******.”

Police move on sunbathers in Regents Park, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus

Activist Gina Martin tweeted: “I know ‘you can’t sit and sunbathe’ may sound unbelievable, illogical and unfair.

“But that’s because you’re still mentally operating on life as you knew it a month ago. That lifestyle has gone. Now is basically wartime. And war is about individual action to keep everyone safe.”

Another person said: “If you go out and ignore government guidelines, sunbathe and catch up with friends, you are literally making a mockery out of NHS doctors and nurses, some who have DIED treating people like YOU. It could be YOU one day that they’re risking their lives for. Scum bags. STAY HOME.”

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