Health officials fear Britons are getting complacent about the coronavirus lockdown as traffic and mobile phone data revealed more of us are on the roads and looking for directions.
Huge queues formed outside B&Q stores in Bristol and Swansea as the chain decided to reopen 130 of its stores. Meanwhile sunbathers flocked to London’s Hyde Park and people crowded outside ice cream stands along the coastline of Hove.
Yorkshire Police revealed 50% of shutdown fines issued so far have gone to tourists visiting beauty spots in the area. At today’s Downing Street briefing NHS England director Professor Stephen Powis said ‘there was a little bit of concern’ after the warm weather drew big crowds to public spaces.
He said traffic levels are down 59% compared to February, but grew by three percentage points in the last seven days compared to the previous week.
Mobility data released by Apple revealed that despite a dramatic drop in requests for directions, in recent days searches for maps for walking or driving have increased by eight percentage points.
The Government says people should only go outside to buy essential items, for medical assistance, to help a vulnerable person, for one form of daily exercise and to go to work if necessary.
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Prof Powis said: ‘It won’t take much for this virus to start increasing its transmission again and to spread more widely.
‘It would be foolish and not right if we lost the benefits that we have gained over the last four weeks, which I know have been hard for everybody.
‘So it’s really important that despite the weather, we stay at home, we keep to the guidelines that we’ve been issued with.’
The Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF) said despite its assertions to the contrary, the Government was sending out mixed messages around the shutdown.
Its chairman Ken Marsh said: ‘Contrary to the view we heard today from Downing Street, the Metropolitan Police Federation does believe there are mixed messages coming out from the government around the lockdown for the public.
‘This makes our already difficult job of policing this unprecedented crisis harder.
‘We have to ask whether DIY stores – for instance – are essential stores for the public to attend? Their opening creates increased footfall and vehicles on our roads which surely goes against what we have been told around people staying home to protect the NHS and save lives.
‘Police officers are on the front line of combating the coronavirus crisis – we need clear and unambiguous laws, guidance and communication from government around what the public can and can’t do. What is essential and what isn’t.
‘If officers are confused about all this then so will the public be.’
Various forces have highlighted the most flagrant breaches of the guidance they have come across on social media.
Devon and Cornwall Police fined a couple from Kent for driving around 300 miles for a ‘mini-break’ by the sea.
Their car was confiscated after the driver was found to have no licence or insurance.
In Gwent, officers described it is ‘unacceptable’ that people drove nearly 12 miles from Newport to the blue lagoon at Pantygasseg.
Police in Gloucestershire issued warning letters to three people in Paganhill after holding a party at one of their houses.
And a pub in Pendeford, Wolverampton, had its licence suspended for three weeks for secretly serving alcohol.
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