Over £66k in fines issued as SAGE expert issues warning over weekend crowds

28 February 2021, 18:05

Police officers spoke to people in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, as crowds gathered
Police officers spoke to people in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, as crowds gathered. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

A top scientist has warned "we could blow it by breaking the rules now" after police spent the weekend managing crowds enjoying the sunshine on beaches and in parks across the UK.

Making the most of the sunshine, many people rushed to parks and beaches across the UK as temperatures rose to the highest for months.

Police were seen speaking to people sitting on Brighton beach and in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, while over £66,000 in Covid fines were handed out at parties in London.

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Rules currently allow each person outdoor exercise once per day, close to home, by themselves or with their household, one other person or a support bubble.

But stopping to sit down on a bench - or lie on the beach - for a long period of time remains against the restrictions.

A community support officer speaks to people enjoying the sunshine on Brighton beach in Sussex on Sunday.
Community support officers spoke to people enjoying the sunshine on Brighton beach on Sunday afternoon. Picture: PA
People enjoyed the sunshine in Potters Fields Park on Saturday, with a view of the City of London skyline.
Crowds gathered in Potters Fields Park on Saturday, with a view of the City of London skyline. Picture: PA

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Officers in Mayfair, London, broke up two house parties in the early hours of Sunday and fined more than 70 people.

A 29-year-old man was handed a £10,000 fine for organising a gathering at a flat, with 50 further £800 fines handed out to attendees.

Many people sat by the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park on Saturday evening.
Many people sat by the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park on Saturday evening. Picture: PA

Meanwhile, less than 500 meters away, 20 people were fined £800 each at a flat in Brooks Mews. Police say they are still looking for the organiser.

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Inspector Kevin Fagan, warned: "Despite recent announcements about how and when Covid restrictions may be eased, nothing has changed in terms of the regulations."

"Illegal gatherings like this are irresponsible and put pressure on the emergency services who have do deal with the consequences of these people's selfish actions.

"The rules are clear, as should be the message that the police will enforce them where wilful breaches are found to have taken place."

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SAGE adviser Professor Calum Semple has said the crowds are "a big worry to us", acknowledging people may see him "as Doctor Doom".

"We can't take a shortcut with people's health and wellbeing," the infectious disease expert told Sky News.

"We are making great progress with the vaccination, over 20 million vaccinations, that is almost a third of the adult population. So we are so close but we could blow it by breaking the rules now."

Read more: Whole families with schoolchildren to be offered home Covid tests twice weekly

Many people took to the streets of Scarborough on Sunday.
Many people took to the streets of Scarborough on Sunday. Picture: PA

He added: "People probably don't realise a third of the hospital cases are people under the age of 60. 10 percent - that is one in ten hospital beds - are still occupied by people under 50 with no other healthcare problems."

"One in five of our intensive care beds is occupied by someone under the age of 50 without other major conditions.

"So we haven't quite got to the stage where enough people are vaccinated, where we can go onto the roadmap and fully release. So really we do urge people to take care."

A community support officer speaks to people enjoying the sunshine on Brighton beach in Sussex on Sunday.
A community support officer speaks to more people on Brighton beach. Picture: PA

A similar message has emerged from top UK scientific and medical experts, amidst concerns lockdown compliance may be waning.

England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned people "don't wreck this now".

Read more: ‘Strong evidence’ Covid vaccines reduce transmission expected soon, JCVI member tells LBC

He said there are already "some worrying signs that people are relaxing" at "exactly the wrong time" while infections, hospitalisations and deaths remain high.