MPs demand Boris puts UK in lockdown as social distance rules ignored

Boris Johnson is facing calls to strengthen social distancing guidelines (Picture: Getty Images/ Reuters)

The Prime Minister
is facing increasing pressure to lockdown the UK after thousands of people
spent the weekend ignoring social distancing advice amid the coronavirus
pandemic.

Boris Johnson says he will be thinking ‘very, very actively’ about how to stop people from continuing to gather at parks, markets and beaches despite calls for them to stay several metres apart.

The UK’s death toll from Covid-19 rose to 281 on Sunday, with a teenager, 18, becoming the country’s youngest fatality. Nearly 6,000 people have tested positive for the virus. There are growing fears the country is on the same path as Italy, the epicentre of the virus, where over 5,000 have died.

Many MPs are now pledging their support for stricter rules to be enforced. Former Cabinet minister Julian Smith said he would support ‘any measure’ brought forward by the Prime Minister after many people ‘recklessly ignored government advice this weekend’.

The Prime Minister is reluctant to shut down parks (Picture: Getty Images)
People are allowed outside to exercise, but should still keep a distance from one another (Picture: Reuters)

Labour MP and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth also said ministers should be making ‘immediate preparations’ for the ‘next stage’ of regulation.

He said: ‘Far too many people are either confused by the government’s social distancing measures or choose to ignore them. This cannot continue in a public health emergency. Ministers must explain how they escalate the response.

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‘We have called for
and welcomed measures including banning mass gatherings and pub closures. But
if social distancing measures are not working the government must take stronger
action. We urge the government to make immediate preparations for the next
stage and learn lessons from other European nations.

‘If voluntary social distancing measures are not adhered to, the government must bring forward their plans for stronger action.’

Families walk through Battersea Park despite the coronavirus pandemic (Picture: Reuters)
The public have been told to keep several metres away from one another (Picture: Getty Images)

Labour MP Rosena
Allin-Khan, who also works as an A&E doctor at St George’s Hospital in
south London, also attacked the government’s approach, stating that her last
shift had been ‘deeply, deeply eye-opening’.

She described seeing previously fit and healthy people in their 30s and 40s ‘attached to machines, fighting for their lives’.

File photo dated 29/5/2018 of a branch of McDonald's on Oxford Street, central London. All McDonalds restaurants in the UK and Ireland will become takeaways, drive-thrus and delivery operations as the company attempts to cope with the coronavirus outbreak. PA Photo. Issue date: Tuesday March 17, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA WireAre all McDonald’s closing and can you still get delivery on Uber Eats?

Allin-Khan continued: ‘The Prime Minister has been blasé about this from the start, waiting for others to make decisions so he doesn’t have to. It is costing lives.

‘Enough is enough.
The NHS cannot cope and it won’t be long before doctors have to choose between
who lives and who dies.’

During his Sunday press conference, Johnson indicated that he is reluctant to ban people from going outside for a walk or to exercise because of the physical and mental health benefits. However, he emphasised that those who did so should be acting responsibly.

The NHS is struggling to cope with the number of new cases (Picture: Getty Images)

The government
later issued updated guidance making clear that essential travel did not
include visits to ‘second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether
for isolation purposes or holidays’.

While people are still heading to open spaces, there are signs that city and town centres have been closing down, with McDonald’s, John Lewis, Primark and Timpson among the high street chains to announce they were closing their doors.

Meanwhile letters are going out to 1,500,000 people with underlying health conditions who are considered to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus telling them to stay at home for the next 12 weeks.

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