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Met issues Covid warning ahead of busy weekend of protests and Prince Philip's funeral
16 April 2021, 15:38
Ahead of the first Friday night since lockdown restrictions were eased in England, protests and Prince Philip's funeral, the Metropolitan Police has warned people to stick to the rules.
A "highly visible" policing operation will be in place across central London throughout the weekend as a large protest is expected - something now permitted under current rules if a risk assessment is carried out and handed to the police beforehand.
While Philip's funeral is not taking place in the capital, the force has said it has stepped up policing around Buckingham Palace ahead of the historic event.
The event is expected to go smoothly but armed police had to intervene on Tuesday after an axe-wielding man marched down The Mall towards the grounds.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, leading the operation, said: “Last Friday we were all deeply saddened to learn of the passing of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
“Saturday will be a solemn day for the nation, as His Royal Highness’ funeral takes place in Windsor. We will continue to operate a bespoke policing plan in place around Buckingham Palace and Westminster, to keep people safe and to disrupt criminality.
“We will also be deploying a number of officers ahead of a demonstration in central London. I must stress that we remain in a public health crisis and gathering in large numbers presents a real risk of transmitting Covid-19."
The Met has also "attempted to make contact" with the organisers of Saturday’s demonstration to set out the current rules but warned that officers "may be forced to take action" if events get out of hand.
DAC Connors continued: "It is their responsibility to comply with the regulations and ensure their gathering is safe.
"If they fail to comply with the regulations, in the best interests of public health, officers may be forced to take action to disperse crowds. We hope that officers are not placed in this position.
“While restrictions have recently eased, we need only look at what is happening now in some parts of Europe and our own recent experience to see how quickly things can change.
"We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and we must all continue to do what we can to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to head out this weekend to enjoy outdoors hospitality, with Brits reportedly set to drink around five million pints on Friday alone.
The force has found itself in numerous difficult situations due to the pandemic, most recently the Kill the Bill protests - a backlash against the Met's reaction to a vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard and the Government's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.