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'City inspectors' pictured peering into London venues as 10pm curfew comes into effect
25 September 2020, 10:12 | Updated: 25 September 2020, 11:15
Londoners flocked onto the streets last night as drinkers were turfed out of pubs on the first night of the country’s 10pm curfew.
Pictures and videos on social media showed crowds spilling onto thoroughfares in the capital as the clock struck 10, with seemingly little social distancing in sight.
Many had warned of the cut-off time becoming a pinch point, with Wales allowing pubs a 20-minute window for pubgoers to leave unlike England.
A pub bouncer told LBC his first shift on the curfew was an "absolute nightmare" and as hard as New Year's Eve.
Meanwhile, police and 'city inspectors' were out in groups roaming the streets of central London to ensure pubs, bars and restaurants were complying with the strict new rules.
They were pictured looking through cracks in doors of London establishments, and peering through letterboxes.
Announcing a raft of fresh lockdown measures earlier this week, Boris Johnson warned pubs could be handed hefty fines or closed in an instant for breaching Covid-19 regulations.
Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick joined a patrol in Shoreditch, an upmarket part of east London, to raise awareness of the rules, introduced to tackle the UK’s surging rates of coronavirus cases.
But Greg, a bouncer in Chelmsford, Essex, said the rules “went down like a lead balloon” and "trying to get [drinkers] out was an absolute nightmare”, with many also flouting the new rule to wear face coverings unless seated in hospitality venues.
(10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months) pic.twitter.com/7oWKH5APNG— Kirsty Lewis (@kirstylewis6) September 24, 2020
"It wasn't easy, it was quite a tough one," Greg said adding it was the older "power drinkers" who had caused the most issues. “The last time I worked as hard as this was New Year's Eve."But Friday and Saturday night are likely to be the major test for venues as thousands hit town and city centres for earlier nights out.
Kirsty Lewis, a House of Commons staff member, tweeted a video showing crowds congregating in the Oxford Street area. “10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months,” she said.
Others showed packed scenes outside pubs in Soho and Covent Garden as the curfew began, with one street draping a giant banner contrasting the Government’s half-price sweetener for pubs in August with the row back since, reading: “Get out - help out”.
Scotland Yard said the night passed largely peacefully. Deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist said:
"The vast majority of Londoners have stuck to the rules and responded positively to the unprecedented situation we are in. We thank them for that.
"Throughout the last few months we have continued to step in where necessary to protect the public, even as the rules relaxed, with officers working hard to tackle challenging incidents such as unlicensed music events throughout the summer - sometimes facing extreme hostility and even violence.
"However, it is clear that there is a renewed need for everyone to do everything they can to minimise the risk of transmission of what is a potentially deadly disease - that means everyone following the rules."
The curfew comes as the UK reported 6,634 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to 9am on Thursday - the highest daily total ever recorded.
A further 40 people are reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19, the highest since July.