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Coronavirus: Public urged to follow ‘mission-critical’ rules

People wearing a mask run in Battersea Park on Sunday 5 AprilImage copyright
Reuters

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Government guidance says people should only exercise once a day – alone or with those they live with

It is “mission-critical” to follow social distancing rules to protect the NHS and slow the spread of coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

“The more people follow the rules then the faster we will all be through this,” he said, after reports of packed public parks in London and elsewhere.

This morning Mr Hancock said such behaviour was “quite unbelievable”.

At the daily Downing Street briefing, he said it could not go on. It comes as the UK death toll reaches 4,934.

The Department of Health said there were a further 621 deaths linked to coronavirus in the UK on Sunday.

These latest deaths include 12 more in Wales, seven in Northern Ireland and two in Scotland.

As of 09:00 BST on Sunday, 47,806 people had tested positive for coronavirus, the Department of Health said.

Mr Hancock said the government was “not planning any changes imminently” to social distancing policies but he “could not rule out further steps”.

“What we are doing is being absolutely clear that the current rules must be followed.”

“So I say this to the small minority of people who are breaking the rules or pushing the boundaries: you’re risking your own life and the lives of others and you’re making it harder for us all.”

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Media captionHealth Secretary Matt Hancock warns tougher measures could be brought in to stop coronavirus spread

Mr Hancock offered his “profound sympathies” to the families and friends of those who have died.

He added: “I’ve lost two people that I was fond of so I understand what a difficult time this is for the country.

“We need perseverance in the face of great challenges.”

It comes as Brockwell Park in Lambeth was forced to close on Sunday after more than 3,000 people spent the day there sunbathing or in large groups on Saturday.

There were similar scenes on Primrose Hill in Camden on Saturday, when police moved on more than 100 people.

But local officers tweeted to say thank you after finding far fewer crowds in the area on Sunday.

And Brighton beach was nearly deserted on Sunday, following a warning by Brighton and Hove City Council that too many people were meeting up with friends on the seafront.

It prompted a tweet from Sussex police thanking the public for heeding government advice.

In Essex, local police echoed the sentiment, tweeting that “areas that would normally be busy on a sunny Sunday are not today”.

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PA Media

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Police have been out on patrol in parks and beauty spots this weekend, including Primrose Hill in London

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned London’s parks will be forced to close if Londoners do not follow the rules on social gatherings, and urged people to stay at home amid the warm weather.

The Met Office said some parts of the UK could see temperatures of up to 21C on Sunday, with blue skies and sunshine forecast for much of the day across the country.

Restrictions state that everybody must stay at home where possible, and only leave if they have a “reasonable excuse”, such as exercise or shopping for basic necessities.

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PA Media

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Brighton beach was nearly empty of people on Sunday- despite the sunny weather

Newly elected Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sophy Ridge it was “all right for people who have got big houses and huge back gardens” to tell sunbathers observing social distancing to stop doing so.

“If you’re stuck in inadequate accommodation… and you’re all on top of each other, quite literally, then I think people should do social distancing and should keep their distance, but also be reasonable and proportionate about that,” she said.

Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, has called for a rota for the use of public parks, writing on Twitter that families in flats with young children need green spaces during the lockdown.

Mr Hancock’s warning came ahead of the Queen’s address to the nation on Sunday, in which she will stress the value of self-discipline and resolve during the coronavirus pandemic.

In other developments:

New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party would support the government it if decides to toughen lockdown measures.

“We’ve got to get through this and every time people break the guidance from the government they put other people at risk,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus. tweeted his thanks to “everyone who is saving lives by staying at home this weekend”.

“I know it’s tough, but if we all work together and follow the guidance we will beat coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Hancock said that the number of ventilators needed over the coming weeks will be 18,000, and that currently there are between 9,000 and 10,000 within the NHS.

When asked about the number of nurses that had died of coronavirus, Mr Hancock said the latest figure was three deaths.

The Queen’s address will be broadcast on TV, radio and social media at 20:00 BST.


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