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Wed, 8 July 2020

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Boris Johnson warns of ‘serious spike’ in coronavirus if people ‘take liberties’ with social distancing after huge crowds flock to beaches

Boris Johnson warns of ‘serious spike’ in coronavirus if people ‘take liberties’ with social distancing after huge crowds flock to beaches

Thousands of people descended on Bournemouth's beaches on Thursday (PA)

4 min read

Boris Johnson has warned the UK faces a "serious spike" in coronavirus infections if people “take liberties” with the rules on social distancing.

The Prime Minister warned young people who think they are "immortal and invincible" they can still carry Covid-19 which "can kill elderly people particularly", adding:  "It's still dangerous. The virus is still out there."

It comes after a reported half a million people descended on Dorset to take advantage of the hot weather on Thursday at the beach.

The scenes were replicated across coastal areas around England, while thousands of Liverpool fans celebrated together after their side won the Premier League title.

In response the chief medical officer Chris Whitty said levels of Covid-19 infection has gone down “due to the efforts of everyone”, but added: “If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. 

“Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.”

Asked about the issue Mr Johnson said: "If you look at what's happening elsewhere in the world where people have been coming out of lockdown, I'm afraid what you're also seeing is people taking too many liberties with the guidance, mingling too much, not observing social-distancing.”

The PM, speaking during a visit to a restaurant in east London, added: ”So in some parts of the world - I won't name them - you have got spikes, really serious spikes, in the instance of the disease.

“So it is crucial that people understand that on July 4 we get this right, we do this in a balanced way, and we recognise the risks.

"You may think you're not going to get it and you're immortal and invincible and so on. And very likely that's true, particularly if you're a young person.

"But the bug you carry can kill elderly people particularly. It's still dangerous. The virus is still out there."

Earlier his official spokesman had urged beachgoers not to “undo the hard work of the British public” in driving down the R rate.

He said: ”Everyone should be able to enjoy the sunshine, and we understand that people want to enjoy public spaces, but it is important we don't undo the hard work of the British public in reducing the transmission of this virus.

"It is a matter for local authorities to manage numbers, alongside emergency services and Public Health England.

"As we saw yesterday they are best placed to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis.

"We have been clear that should we see case numbers increase we will introduce local lockdowns.”

There have been calls to shut beaches and other outdoor spaces as a result of Thursday’s scenes, after police confirmed three men were stabbed during a fight on Bournemouth pier.

The area’s MP, Conservative ex-minister Tobias Ellwood, said 500,000 people had visited Dorset and called for people to stop coming to the area.

"This place was deluged and social distancing went out the window and that's why a major incident was declared, because the local authority and indeed the police couldn't cope," he told BBC Breakfast.

"The beach should have been closed down, or at least shut down to prevent further people from entering it.

"We need to learn from this and recognise that if we're going to be serious about tackling this pandemic then we need to be swifter in being able to provide support to local authorities who are unable to cope."

Pressed on whether the Government would close beaches, the PM’s spokesman told reporters: "It is for local authorities to manage numbers.

"I believe Matt Hancock, when he spoke, was referring to the powers to impose localised lockdowns which we have been clear throughout may need to be the case if we see case numbers rise in a particular area.”

Earlier Mr Hancock, the health secretary, confirmed he did have the power to shut beaches, but added: “I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown and I want everybody to be able to enjoy the sunshine.

"But the key is to do it with respect for the rules. Stay with your household and stay a good distance from other households.

"But we do have those powers and if we see a spike in the number of cases then we will take action."

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