Coronavirus: Parks and graveyards must remain open despite UK lockdown, government says

Access to those spaces is vital for ‘health of the nation’, says communities secretary

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Saturday 18 April 2020 19:36
Robert Jenrick says keep parks open if it all possible

Graveyards and parks must remain open despite the coronavirus lockdown, the communities secretary has said.

Funerals can still go ahead with close family members and it was wrong to turn mourners away, Robert Jenrick said.

At Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday, Mr Jenrick said he had “made it clear” to councils that all parks must remain open, after some closed their gates in recent weeks.

Lockdown measures were more difficult for those without a garden or open space and parks needed to be accessible for “the health of the nation”.

He also became emotional as he talked of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from Brixton, who died after contracting Covid-19.

That tragedy was compounded by the fact his family could not attend his funeral, Mr Jenrick said.

“That is not right and it shouldn’t have happened,” he added.

“For clarity, funerals can go ahead with close family present.

“Social distancing measures must be respected, but families must have the opportunity to say a respectful goodbye to those that they love.”

Mr Jenrick also said ministers would be issuing more guidance on funerals shortly.

He added: “I’m also asking councils to keep open or indeed to reopen cemeteries and graveyards... for people to make that private visit and seek solace at the grave of someone you’ve loved or to privately lay flowers.

“There have been times in my life when I have needed to do that. These are small steps, but small mercies can make a difference.”

Police have also come under fire amid accusations of a heavy handed interpretation of the guidelines.

Ministers announced on Thursday that the UK’s lockdown would continue for at least another three weeks, warning this was not the time to squander the progress made against Covid-19.

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