Britons have been warned outdoor exercise may be banned if they continue to flout social distancing rules, although there are no “imminent” changes to the nationwide lockdown currently in the offing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock used Sunday’s daily government briefing on coronavirus to again urge people not to flout restrictions designed to keep people at home.
He said he “understands how difficult” the COVID-19 pandemic is for the country after two people he was “fond of” passed away from the disease, but insisted the lockdown must be adhered to despite the warm weather.
Earlier, the health secretary’s message to the public on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday was clear: if you want the lockdown to end, follow the rules.
His remarks came on a weekend when crowds defied pleas from Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to give into the temptation of the sunshine, and instead flouted government rules on when people can leave their homes.
The instructions state that people should only be leaving their house during the lockdown for food, health reasons, outdoor exercise or to go to work if they cannot do their job from home.
The prime minister and other senior cabinet fugures had urged the public not to flout those social distancing measures ahead of the weekend, warning that it would put more lives at risk.
Another 621 coronavirus victims across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were confirmed by the Department of Health and Social care earlier on Sunday, taking the UK total to 4,934.
Mr Hancock told the briefing it was “mission critical” for people to follow the current instructions to save more lives.
“The more people follow the rules, the faster we will all be through it,” he said.
He added: “We are not yet confident enough to be able to change the rules.
“Whether they have had the coronavirus or not, the rules are the same for everyone.”
His call was echoed at the news briefing by England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries.
She said people who go out must only be interacting with members of their own household and not be tempted to organise meetings with other family and friends who live elsewhere.
“We have set those rules, we are enforcing against those rules and we will reiterate those rules,” she added.
“Because that is the best way to be able to bend the curve down and stop the spread of the virus.”
Earlier, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “The vast majority of people are following the public health advice, which is absolutely critical, and staying at home.
“But there are a small minority of people who are still not doing that – it’s quite unbelievable frankly to see that there are some people who are not following the advice.”
Asked by Sophy Ridge whether sunbathing in public spaces was against the law, he said: “Sunbathing is against the rules that have been set out for important public health reasons.”
He warned those who are flouting the guidance: “You are putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way.”
Mr Hancock also used Sunday’s press conference to provide updates on how the NHS is coping with the crisis.
He moved to reassure the nation that the UK has “adequate supplies of the oxygen that’s needed in hospitals” after people were turned away from one A&E department due to an issue yesterday.
Watford General Hospital declared a critical incident after it discovered a problem with its oxygen equipment, which would have potentially affected COVID-19 patients.
“We have had an equipment failure and we therefore had to divert some ambulances, but this is the normal operation of the NHS when there are things like equipment failures,” the health secretary said.
“The quantity of oxygen and the supply of oxygen is something that we have been working very hard on and we have a very high degree of confidence in the supply of oxygen.”