UK sunbathers may trigger stricter coronavirus lockdowns


Parks across the UK could be closed unless more people adhere to social distancing rules, after Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said those using public spaces to sunbathe were putting people’s lives at risk and may trigger stricter lockdown measures.

Despite Sunday’s warm temperatures, fewer people visited parks than usual, but scenes in Brockwell Park in south London on Saturday – where 3,000 people gathered – were widely condemned and led to the park being temporarily closed.

Police said they also had to move more than 100 people from Primrose Hill in London after they were found with “full picnics or blankets, sunbathing”.

On Sunday morning, Hancock said he could be forced to take action before later saying that any change would not be immediate.

He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think this example of exercise is a really important one, because we’ve said because of the positive benefits to your physical and your mental health that it’s OK to exercise on your own or with members of your own household.

“But if the result of that is that too many people go out and flout the other rules because they say: ‘Well, if I can exercise then it’s fine for me to do other things,’ then I’m afraid we will have to take action.”

But he later clarified his position, saying: “‘We can’t rule out further steps but I don’t want anyone to think that any changes to the social distancing rules are imminent, because the vast majority are following the rules.”

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The temporary closure of Brockwell Park and images of sunbathers from around the country triggered a debate about the use of parks by people who do not have accessible outdoor space during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Hancock was backed by the newly-elected Labour leader, Keir Starmer, who said his party would support either a ban on outdoor exercise or on non-essential work if it was needed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“We do have to take whatever steps are necessary,” said Starmer, who said social distancing was difficult for people who did not have a garden to exercise in, but insisted “we’ve got to get through this”.

Angela Rayner, who was elected as Labour’s deputy leader, said on Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It’s all right for people who’ve got big houses and huge back gardens to say that, but if you’re stuck in inadequate accommodation, you’ve got no back garden, nowhere to go, and you’re on top of each other, people should do social distancing, but also be reasonable and proportionate about that.”

The Royal Parks – the charity that manages several parks in London, including Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park and Hyde Park, which were all busy over the weekend – said its spaces would remain open for now.

“Our sole priority at the moment is to keep the parks open and safe for as long as possible, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure this is the case,” a spokesperson said. The charity has previously banned cycling through Richmond Park because of congestion and shut all cafes, catering kiosks and playgrounds at its sites.

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Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham on Saturday



Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham on Saturday. The council has encouraged users to practise social distancing. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Officials in Birmingham, which has had the largest amount of confirmed Covid-19 cases of any local authority outside of London, encouraged residents to practise social distancing while continuing to keep its parks open.


London Councils – the membership group representing the 32 London boroughs and the City of London – said if people failed to follow government advice stricter restrictions on movement could follow.

Wail Qasim
(@WailQ)

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. https://t.co/fvep2G4JEu


April 4, 2020

Wail Qasim, the writer and social commentator, used Brockwell Park on Saturday and questioned the logic behind the decision to close it on Sunday, saying it punished the many because of the actions of the few. “Brockwell Park is 50.8 hectares of space. Even if all 3,000 people were in there at the same time they could have 169 square metres alone each,” Qasim tweeted.

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





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