'Concern' over increase in car use with coronavirus lockdown still in place

24 April 2020, 15:08

Traffic on the M1 motorway in Leicester
Traffic on the M1 motorway in Leicester. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Brits have begun taking to the roads again, new figures show, as some continued to flout the Government’s lockdown rules by basking in the sunny weather.

More car journeys were made this week than at any point since the shutdown began, new figures from AA show.

They surged from 0.4 average journeys per car on weekdays at the start of April, to 0.46 on Monday and Tuesday this week, 0.47 on Wednesday and hitting 0.48 on Thursday, based on tracking devices in 15,000 vehicles.

Rush hour traffic trickled back onto roads across the country this morning, with busy scenes spotted on the A40 at Hangar Lane, the M3 and M4.

AA branded the trend “concerning” and urged people to stay at home, after breakdown statistics also showed a rise from 6,000 breakdowns a day in previous weeks to 8,000 this week.

The UK’s economy is beginning to grind back into gear with homebuild firms Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Vistry Group all announcing a return to construction sites, B&Q reopening 155 stores, Sainsbury’s extending its opening hours and fast food chains opening for delivery.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “comfortable” with the firms returning to work - but insisted those that have re-opened “were never required to close”.

But some were spotted basking in 20C sun on Friday in parks and sea-fronts, seemingly undeterred by the £60 fine and threat of arrest - prompting another warning to adhere.

Police were called to intercept a large queue outside MEATliquor burger bar in south east London on Thursday night while crowds queued at Five Guys restaurant in Edinburgh’s Fountain Park.

In Cardiff’s Roath Park, people set up an outdoor gym, bringing kettle bells, resistance bands and staging a group workout, in brazen defiance of the rules.

Diane Howard, a passer-by, said: “It is just ridiculous. They are in a big group and using the equipment even though it's been taped off. I even saw guys running together with resistance bands - and even wrestling on the grass.”

Meanwhile, Hove seafront in East Sussex was pictured packed with revellers enjoying ice cream in 23 degree temperatures.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

It comes as Dominic Raab warned it will be weeks before ministers begin to “think about” putting forward an exit strategy out of lockdown, while chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said some restrictions are likely to remain in place for the “next calendar year”.

Pressure is mounting on the Government to set out its plan for the coming weeks and months after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon published a blueprint for a phased easing of restrictions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to publish a plan, suggesting it could lead to the British public becoming complacent.

He said: “There will be a time that we need to make changes and that's absolutely right and appropriate.

“I will not allow for changes to be made that are unsafe. We've got to keep the public safe.”