Thousands flock to London parks in defiance of coronavirus lockdown

5 April 2020, 08:09

Police shared this image of Primrose Hill
Police shared this image of Primrose Hill. Picture: Metropolitan Police

By Asher McShane

A park in south London has closed its doors indefinitely after 3,000 people visited in warm weather despite government advice to stay indoors during the coronavirus lockdown.

Brits are being told to stay at home except for food shopping trips and one hour of daily exercise, but Lambeth Council posted online yesterday: “Despite clear advice, over 3,000 people spent today in Brockwell Park, many of them sunbathing or in large groups. This is unacceptable. 

“Unfortunately, the actions of a minority now means that, following police advice, Brockwell Park will be closed tomorrow. #StayHome.

“We are sorry we've had to take this decision. This wouldn't need to happen if people followed the clear instructions from the Govt. We are doing this for the wider safety of the public. 

"A minority of people have not followed the guidance - regrettably we have to act."

But some residents hit back saying the park was vital for people to exercise, saying that most people were behaving within the government guidelines.

Robert Harrison posted pictures online showing people in the park with large distances between each other, walking either individually or in couples.

He said: “The park didn't look that busy to me , I live next to it and can see a good deal of it.

"If you close the park then the neighbouring streets are going to be even more crowded with people walking close together, have you thought about that ?”

Wail Qasim posted online: "Brockwell Park is 50.8 hectares of space. Even if all 3000 people were in there at the same time they could have 169 square metres alone each.

"You're taking green space away from many who have no other option. Please deal with the groups instead of collectively punishing."

Police moved 25 people on from a house party in Newham
Police moved 25 people on from a house party in Newham. Picture: Metropolitan Police

708 people died from coronavirus on Friday, figures released yesterday showed. The deaths included a five-year-old child with existing health issues. Despite the highest death toll yet in the UK, Brits defied advice to stay indoors to limit the spread of the disease.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock this morning said sunbathing in public spaces is against the coronavirus social distancing rules, as he warned those flouting the advice that they were putting people's lives at risk.

Police elsewhere in London, the worst-hit place for coronavirus in the UK, took to Twitter to criticise the widespread breaches of the rules.

Camden Town & Primrose Hill Police wrote:  “#Disappointed is the only word to describe what we found in #PrimroseHill park today.

"We moved on 100+ people who we found with full picnics or blankets sunbathing or catching up with their friends!

"Check out a photo we took when we then returned a short while later..."

Police in Newham in London also raided a house party where 25 guests had gathered.

They wrote: "After a day of stop and search and foot chases, Newham's NTT have been called to clear a house party in Central Park Road. 

"This family thought law relating to social distancing shouldn't apply to 18th birthday parties. 25 guests moved on."

Official government advice:

- Stay at home

- Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)

- If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times

- Wash your hands as soon as you get home

- Do not meet others, even friends or family.

Sussex Police also had incidents of people breaking the rules: “Thank you to everyone that stayed away from beauty spots and beaches today. We know it isn't easy. 

"We are disappointed that two people will be summonsed to attend court after breaching the Coronavirus Act 2020 by having a BBQ on Hove Beach."

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England's national medical director, warned that while new cases of coronavirus appear to have stabilised, now is not the time to "take our foot off the pedal" and that staying at home “will save lives.”

“We need to stop transmission and reduce the spread of the virus,” he said.

One Welsh paramedic posted online: “708 DEAD in the last 24 hours. The 13 year old boy was buried with NO immediate family there.

"A 5 year old has DIED. NHS staff are DYING. I’m scared, my family are scared, my colleagues are scared.

"YOU can help stop this by STAYING the F*** at HOME! This in NOT a bank holiday! "

One NHS worker speaking to LBC today told of her disgust that people were flouting the rules, risking her life, the life of other NHS workers, and the lives of their family members.