Coronavirus: Fears for lockdown over weekend of sunshine
April. 04, 2020
Police face "one of their biggest challenges" of the lockdown this weekend as sunny weather risks drawing crowds to parks and beauty spots.
Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer told the BBC it was a "pivotal weekend", urging people to "play their part" and avoid travel.
Ministers have said "stay at home" is an instruction, not a request.
And senior medics urged people to avoid travel for the sake of two nurses who died of coronavirus.
A forecast of warm weather in some areas this weekend has led to warnings from local councils, tourism bosses and police urging people to stay away from coastal areas, national parks and other visitor destinations.
Can I go for a walk in the sunshine?
Forecasters have predicted a temperature high of 20C in south-east England on Sunday, while southern Scotland and the Midlands could reach 16C and 19C respectively.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Sawyer said people would have to examine their own conscience if they endangered lives by ignoring the rules this weekend.
"Devon and Cornwall Police requires the public both within and outside our geography to play their part," he said.
"But if a £60 ticket makes you do something and 684 people dying yesterday didn't, then I think you've got to take a good look at yourself as to whether you've realised the seriousness and significance of where we are."
The latest figures showed 3,605 people with the virus have died in the UK, with 684 deaths recorded on Friday. There are 38,168 confirmed cases.
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Mr Sawyer said that officers would in the first instance "explain" and "encourage" people to follow government guidelines on essential travel, describing enforcement as "a last resort".
"It's a pivotal weekend for us," he said. "If we don't get it right this weekend, then what are we going to do at Easter?"
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, told BBC Newsnight this weekend was set to be "one of the biggest challenges for policing so far".
She said: "It's a collective endeavour. This is ultimately about saving lives and not putting a strain on the NHS and our other emergency services."
Police officers will be at Brighton station this weekend, asking people to go home if they travel to the seaside destination to enjoy the sunny weather, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council Nancy Platts said.
Imperial College London's Prof Neil Ferguson, author of a report which warned of mass deaths if the UK did not introduce stricter measures, said high levels of infection could continue "for weeks and weeks" if people do not follow social distancing rules this weekend.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the epidemic was expected to plateau in the next week to 10 days, but that the public's behaviour was crucial for determining what happens next.
Prof Ferguson said - providing people follow guidelines - he was "hopeful" that some of the intensive social distancing measures could be substituted for rapid testing and contact tracing in a few weeks' time, once case numbers are lower.
"We want to move to a situation where, at least by the end of May, we are able to substitute some less intensive measures for the lockdown," he said.
What are the lockdown rules?
A law passed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus means nobody can leave their home "without reasonable excuse". These include:
Shopping for basic necessities such as food or medicine To take exercise (the guidelines suggest once a day, and in Wales that is the law) Seeking medical assistance, or to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm Providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person, providing emergency assistance, or donating blood Travelling to work or to carry out voluntary services, where it's not possible to do these from home Attending the funeral of a member of your household, or a close family member (or in some circumstances, a friend) Fulfilling legal obligations, such as attending court, satisfying bail requirements or participating in legal proceedings Accessing critical public services including childcare or education, social services, or victim support Allowing children of separated parents to move between both households Moving house where reasonably necessary
On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned at the No 10 briefing that "we cannot relax our discipline now".
"If we do, people will die," he said.
Mr Hancock said the advice to stay home and protect lives is "not a request - it is an instruction".
After the deaths of two nurses with the virus, Areema Nasreen and Aimee O'Rourke , England's chief nursing officer Ruth May urged: "Please stay at home for them."
Theresa Fife, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, expressed concern that some frontline staff were not able to operate social distancing, and that protective equipment was not reaching them - both in the NHS and in care homes.
"I do believe, sadly, that it is inevitable that we will see more nurses and other healthcare professionals die during this crisis," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
The Queen is due to make a rare special address to the nation on TV, radio and social media on Sunday.
The speech at 20:00 BST will be intended to reassure and rally people, BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said. The Queen is also expected to thank NHS staff and key workers, as well as emphasise the important role individuals can play.
The decision to deliver the speech has been made "in close consultation with Downing Street", he added.
Meanwhile, the body representing laboratory scientists said the government's plans for scaling up testing for coronavirus infections to 100,000 a day risked being held up by a shortage of chemicals and supplies.
The Institute for Biomedical Sciences said the UK had enough laboratories and staff to increase testing, but there is a "very real risk" that hospitals could run out of reagents, the chemicals used in the tests.
And supplies of the the precision plastics used with the reagents are not due to be ready until mid-May, the institute said.
In other developments:
Passengers on board two cruise liners in Florida - with some 200 British passengers among them - have begun disembarking An increasing number of councils are instructing dog owners to ensure their pets are always on a lead in parks and open spaces Official data on testing in hospitals suggests that England is lagging behind Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland The British Embassy in Manila has announced a plan to repatriate about 600 UK nationals stuck in the Philippines, after thousands of Britons became stranded around the globe amid the pandemic
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