Drunk people can't socially distance: Police chief's warning after pubs reopen

5 July 2020, 07:56

A large crowd in Soho in London last night
A large crowd in Soho in London last night. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Revellers were seen crowding the streets last night after England’s pubs reopened following three months of lockdown.

Large crowds gathered in some areas including London, with little to no social distancing in place.

The chairman of the Police Federation said that drunk people are unable to properly socially distance.

John Apter said it was "crystal clear" revellers would not adhere to the one metre plus rule as restrictions were eased on Saturday.

Drinkers flocked to town centres around England
Drinkers flocked to town centres around England. Picture: PA

Mr Apter, who was on shift in Southampton where he dealt with "naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks", said: "What was crystal clear is that drunk people can't/won't socially distance.

"It was a busy night but the shift managed to cope. I know other areas have had issues with officers being assaulted."

Professor Chris Whitty said the pandemic "is a long way from gone" and urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as pubs and restaurants reopened.

Sadiq Khan said: "London’s doors are opening but we must stay safe. Be sensible, listen to the experts, follow the guidance, and we will get through this. "

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News this morning: “My overriding message to people is yes, enjoy the new freedoms, but do so safely following social distancing. It is so important, and even the basics like washing you hands.

"We have got this virus getting right under control, the number of new infections is under 600 on the last data, so it is really coming down in terms of the number of positive cases that we're finding and that is good news, but we've just got to have the resilience and resolve to stick at it and to be very careful in how we enjoy those new freedoms."

Mr Hancock said: "Yes, go out there and enjoy summer and get out and enjoy the things that we love, that we've been able to lift the restrictions on, but do so safely.

"And there are two parts to that - enjoy summer safely. And it's a really important message and I think it's one that the vast majority of people understand."

The crowds were there from early Saturday evening into the small hours
The crowds were there from early Saturday evening into the small hours. Picture: PA

Pictures from London's Soho showed packed streets into the early hours of Sunday. The Met Police said there had been no major incidents.

Surrey Police also said so-called Super Saturday had passed without incident.

Detective Chief Inspector, Amy Buffoni, said: "Having reviewed our systems I can confirm that last night's easing of restrictions was well respected across Surrey.

"I want to thank everyone who has worked hard in ensuring that businesses could start to reopen to the public while keeping business owners, employees and the wider public safe during this continuing pandemic.

"No doubt many stayed at home last night balancing the risk that they are willing to personally accept but we should remember that we all have a part to play in reducing the risk of local lockdowns.

"I encourage us all to maintain the government guidance on social distancing and the use of face coverings."

Rafal Liszewski, a store manager at Clonezone on Soho's Old Compton Street in London described crowds in the area on Saturday night after pubs were allowed to trade again as "out of control".

"Saturday started very easy. But you could feel tension in the air," the 36-year-old said.

"Around 1pm crowds started to arrive... quickly everything got out of control and by 8-9 pm it was a proper street party with people dancing and drinking.

"Barely anyone was wearing masks and nobody respected social distancing... to be honest with that many people on one street it was physically impossible."

Mr Liszewski, who is originally from Poland but now lives in Finchley, estimated there was between two and three thousand people on the street but his shop was only allowing seven customers at a time.

There was disorder in north Nottinghamshire too, where four people were arrested and several pubs decided to close after alcohol related anti-social behaviour.

A major easing of lockdown measures in England saw pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas opening their doors again under modified social distancing regulations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Government experts urged people to stick to the rules to avoid creating a second wave of coronavirus.

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Speaking on Friday, Prof Whitty said: "None of us believe, and I'm sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.

"There's no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that's a great thing to do socially but it's also a great thing from the virus's point of view.

"Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs."