Coronavirus: PM warns of virus rules after crowds on the beach

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Media captionA major incident was reported in Bournemouth when people flocked to the shore

The spikes in coronavirus cases abroad should act as a warning to Britons who ignore social distancing rules, Boris Johnson said.

The prime minister said crowds on Bournemouth beach suggested on Thursday that people needed to understand that “mixing too much” could delay the UK.

He said that people in other countries had “taken too much liberty with the orientation” as the blocking rules were relaxed.

Ministers have warned that UK beaches could be closed if infections increase.

Another 186 deaths from people who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK were announced on Friday, and the total number of deaths is now 43,414.

The latest figures, released by the Department of Health and Social Care, showed that 1,006 other people had tested positive for the virus.

Johnson said that people in some countries “were not observing social distancing.”

“Some parts of the world, I will not name them, but if you have spikes, really serious spikes in cases of the disease, it is crucial that people understand that on July 4 we do it well, that we do it in a balanced way, and we recognize the risks, “he said.

“You may think that you are not going to make it, that you are immortal and invincible, and so on, and very likely that is true if you are a young person. But the insect you carry can kill particularly older people. It is still dangerous; the virus it’s still out there. “

The prime minister spoke after the World Health Organization said Europe had seen an increase in weekly Covid-19 cases for the first time in months after the restrictions were eased.

Concern has been expressed about people gathered across the UK during this week’s heat wave, including street parties in London and Manchester, crowded beaches and Liverpool fan celebration.

A Dorset MP estimated that 500,000 people visited the county on Thursday alone, with reports of blocked roads, fighting and night camps.

A “major incident” was declared on the beach as a “waiting measure”, which the Dorset Council later said due to an increase in people visiting the hospital’s A&E departments and blocked traffic stopping the passage of ambulances.

And Sam Crowe, the council’s director of public health, said he was concerned about the risk of coronavirus transmission in closed environments, such as trains, when visitors traveled to the county.

Dorset Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ian Girling partly blamed the scenes on “a disturbing lack of government clarity” and called for “stronger messages” before July 4, when the reopening of pubs is allowed. and restaurants.

He said: “It would have been common sense to ask people to stay in their counties as we recover from the crisis and to give places like Dorset time to prepare to receive visitors.”

  • What are the rules of social distancing?

Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that people had “generally” observed the current rules of social distancing, staying 2 million away from other homes, and forcing beaches to close would not be the first course. of action. But he said: “We just have to admit that yesterday was the hottest day of the year, incredibly hot, a lot of people had the same idea, they all went to the beach, and yes, of course, those scenes in Bournemouth are a matter of concern. “

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Thousands of people flocked to the Dorset coast on both Wednesday and Thursday

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But it was calmer on Friday afternoon as the weather cooled slightly

Now it depends on the public

Concern for people who come to the beaches comes at an important point in our fight against the virus. The UK has been watching infections drop despite easing restrictions.

Six weeks ago, when the Prime Minister announced the first steps to get out of the confinement, the number of newly diagnosed infections was around 4,000 per day. Those numbers have fallen by three-quarters since then, with 1,073 per day recorded, on average, over the past week.

But a combination of warm weather and further relaxation of restrictions on July 4th means that we are at a crucial juncture.

Much is left to good judgment, common sense and personal responsibility of people.

Government experts believe that with the testing and tracking system in place, the virus can continue to be suppressed, but only if the public plays its part.

A woman on Bournemouth beach told the BBC on Thursday: “Social distancing has gone out the window and obviously I think we are part of that because we are here today from Hertfordshire.”

Jane Martin, a hospice nurse in Wimbourne, Dorset, said heavy traffic had made it difficult for her to visit patients. “It took me six and a half hours to reach only three clients who are vulnerable.”

Council leader Vikki Slade said there have been problems in Bournemouth since the closure was first eased in May, with people heading to the beaches and the pier. because the pubs, bars and restaurants were still closed.

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood added his voice to those who said the beach should have been closed.

“If we are going to take the fight against this pandemic seriously, then we must be faster in order to provide support to local authorities who cannot cope,” he said.

Thursday was the hottest day of the year in the UK so far, with highs of 33.3C (92F) at Heathrow Airport.

Bournemouth reached 30C (86F) and Brighton, which also saw busy scenes, reached 29C (84.2F).

Police reported several incidents after crowds gathered on the beaches, with three London men stabbed to death in Bournemouth; Two men stabbed each other after a meeting at Leysdown Beach in Kent, and violent clashes at Ogmore-by-Sea in the Valley of Glamorgan.

In Wales, Prime Minister Mark Drakeford warned that confinement restrictions would not be eased if parties and beach fights continued.

Meanwhile, after crowds flocked to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium when they became Premier League champions, Mayor Joe Anderson said the city would have to wait and see if the meeting would lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.

And the Met Police warned it would put a “particular focus on illegal spontaneous music events that often draw large crowds” and that they were “breaking health regulations” this weekend. It comes after the police were attacked while trying to disperse crowds at an illegal party for the second night.

Temperatures across the UK remained above 25 ° C in south-east England on Friday, but were considerably lower in other areas, with forecasts of thunderstorms in many parts.


Large crowds were seen at Ogmore-by-Sea on Thursday night

Who has the power to close beaches?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is probably correct in saying that the government has the power to close beaches to prevent infection.

You could try using program 22 of the Coronavirus 2020 Act, which gives you the power to ban meetings and close venues in England and Wales. The definition of a local is very broad, so it could probably include beaches.

Alternatively, section 45C of the Public Health (Disease Control) Act 1984 gives ministers broad powers to do what the government deems necessary in response to a threat to public health, including stopping the gathering of people.

The challenge to close beaches is probably more practical. The leaders of the Bournemouth and Sefton councils told BBC Breakfast that they do not have the powers to close their beaches and that they would have difficulty doing so, as they have 15 and 22 miles of coastline respectively.

“It is not like a private beach at the end of a path that could close the path,” said Vikki Slade of the Bournemouth Council. “People live near the sand, so that’s not practical.”

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