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Following chaotic scenes on beaches during this week’s heatwave, the Prime Minister pleased that people should not be “mingling too much” despite the easing of many lockdown restrictions next weekend.
He also urged young people not to put the lives of the elderly at risk by becoming cavalier about the coronavirus threat.
Downing Street officials indicated that councils could act rapidly to close beaches and other public spaces following localised increases in the disease’s infection rate.
Mr Johnson voiced his concern during a visit to a pizza restaurant in East London yesterday with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to inspect preparations for the opening of much of the hospitality sector on “super Saturday” next weekend.
He said people should take heed of the experience of other countries that had seen renewed outbreaks of the epidemic after easing lockdown restrictions.
“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 Prime Minister said.
“Some parts of the world – I won’t name them – but have you have got spikes, really serious spikes in instances of the disease, so it’s crucial that people understand that on 4 July we get this right, that we do this in a balanced way, and we recognise the risks,” he said.
In a direct appeal to the public, he said: “You may think you are not going to get it, that you’re immortal and invincible and so on – and very likely that’s true if you are young person.
“But the bug you carry can kill elderly people particularly. It is still dangerous; the virus is still out there.
“To win, the beat this thing, we have to stay alert and do this in a balanced way.”
Mr Johnson also repeated his promise that the Government will support businesses and protect jobs as the economy recovers from weeks of shutdown.
“There will be tough times ahead. And the retail sector, shopping malls, clearly have been feeling the squeeze on their business model for long time.
“We’ll do everything can to look after them and to make sure we get young people into work by every possible means,” the Prime Minister said.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister stepped up the Government warnings to the public to continue to stay alert and obey social distancing guidelines.
“Everyone should be able to enjoy the sunshine and we understand that people want to go outside to exercise and enjoy public spaces.
“But it’s important we don’t undo the hard work of the British public in reducing the transmission of this virus, which is why the Prime Minister has been clear we are still asking people to abide by our social distancing guidelines,” the spokesman said.
Councils will take responsibility for closing public open spaces including beaches if too many people flout the guidelines, the spokesman said.
“It’s a matter for local authorities to manage numbers alongside emergency services and Public Health England.
“They are best placed to make those decisions on a case by case basis should locations become overcrowded,” said the spokesman.
“We’ve been clear that should we see case numbers increase we will introduce local lockdowns.
“As the Prime Minister has said, if we need to, we may need to pull the handbrake up.
“Thanks to the efforts of the British public we’ve been able to ease the lockdown based on the road map we published in May.
“Should we see any increase in cases in a particular area we will enforce local lockdowns and we will continue to monitor the case numbers to see how the transmission of the virus is progressing.
“We want people to be able to enjoy outside spaces and we want them to be able to enjoy leisure facilities such as the beach. But we have also been clear we don’t want to see cases start to rise again.
“Therefore we continue to ask people to abide by the social distancing guidelines.”
Asked if the Government could close beaches to stop overcrowding, the spokesman said: “It’s for local authorities to manage numbers.”
And responding to scenes of crowds of Liverpool fans celebrating their team’s Premier League triumph on Thursday, the spokesman added: “It was obviously a fantastic achievement for Jurgen Klopp and the team. We understand that fans will want to celebrate but it’s important that people follow the social distancing guidelines and we would ask them to do so.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said there was a “quid pro quo” that any new easing of the lockdown comes with a responsibility to respect any social distancing and other virus mitigation measures.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Eustice said: “We do need people to work with us on this.
“The quid pro quo, if you like, for further easements, for further steps, to open pubs and restaurants, people have to observe those social distancing guidelines that go with it.”
Responding to scenes of overcrowding on Bournemouth beach earlier this week, Mr Eustice added: “I went to Bournemouth beach myself with my family a couple of weeks ago and actually people were observing social distancing and there were certain vendors open for business and they had put in place particular measures to make sure there was social distancing as well.
“Clearly yesterday we had droves of people going to the beach in very large numbers, that was much more difficult.”
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