Coronavirus: Sunbathing 'against social distancing rules'


Sunbathers in Greenwich Park

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Reuters

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Members of the public have been urged to stay at home during this weekend’s warmer weather

Sunbathing in public spaces is against the government’s coronavirus social distancing rules, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Mr Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that people should “follow the rules” or risk the government banning exercise “of all forms” outside their homes.

It comes after reports of groups of people gathering in parks during sunny weather this weekend.

The latest death toll in the UK reached 4,313 on Saturday.

Mr Hancock said the government was “prepared to take action” if further measures were required to bring the virus under control.

“If you don’t want us to ban exercise then you have got to follow the rules,” he said.

He added that the vast majority were sticking to the guidelines, saying: “Let’s not have a minority spoil it for everybody.”

It comes after Brighton and Hove City Council tweeted on Saturday that too many people were meeting up with friends on the seafront, making social distancing “impossible”.

Sussex Police said two people had been summonsed to attend court after having a barbecue on Hove beach.

Meanwhile, Lambeth Council in south London said Brockwell Park would be closed on Sunday after more than 3,000 people spent the day there sunbathing or in large groups on Saturday.

Earlier, Mr Hancock told Sky’s Sophy Ridge it was “quite unbelievable” that a minority of the public are not following the lockdown social distancing advice.

“We’re absolutely clear that you should not leave your home unless it’s for one of four reasons: for medical reasons, to buy food, to go to work if you can’t work at home and for exercise,” Mr Hancock said.

He added: “It is not a request, it is a requirement in law and people need to follow it.”

Mr Hancock did not specify how long the UK would remain in lockdown, but said if people follow the rules “we will be able to make some progress”.

“Every single person can do their bit to get us out of this faster and they do their bit by following the social distancing rules,” he said.

The health secretary also dismissed speculation that he and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have different opinions about when to lift the strict measures.

“We’re working very closely together,” he said. “What matters is that we get out of this as soon as possible.”

At Saturday’s daily briefing, cabinet minister Michael Gove said people must respect the lockdown and that it might be that some of the government’s messages had not reached some segments of the population.

“It may be that young people feel that they are less likely to be affected and less likely to be infected,” he added.

In other developments:

  • The new Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has accused the government of making “serious mistakes” in its response to the coronavirus
  • The Foreign Office said it is now working with 14 commercial airlines to help thousands of Britons still stranded abroad amid the pandemic, with seven charter flights to bring travellers home from India in the coming week
  • Convenience stores on the outskirts of towns and in rural areas are experiencing a surge in sales – as people turn to them for essentials during the lockdown
  • A drive-through coronavirus testing centre for frontline NHS staff is due to open at Glasgow Airport’s long-stay car park on Sunday afternoon



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