‘Lower compliance’ to lockdown among young, warns Michael Gove

People walk along a deserted Bournemouth beach during the lockdown Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Young people may not be taking social distancing measures seriously despite strict instructions to stay at home to curb the spread of coronavirus, a minister has warned.

The news comes as people were spotted sunbathing on Saturday on the warmest weekend of the last six months – which is the second the UK has spent in lockdown due to Covid-19.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Cabinet secretary Michael Gove said there is “evidence to suggest” compliance varies across different demographics of the population.

He explained: “There has been evidence that for some young people, there has been a lower level of compliance.

“That is why it is important that we reach them appropriately – it may be that some of the messages and some of the channels we have used have not reached some segments of the population.

“It may be that young people feel that they are less likely to be affected and less likely to be infected.”

Images posted on Twitter showed crowds of people in London Fields and Battersea Park in the capital, with some seen sunbathing and others on hire bikes.

In the North East, surfers were pictured on the beach at Tynemouth.

Large numbers of surfers were spotted on the beach at Tynemouth despite the lockdown. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

In Ipswich, one man said he saw people with picnic sets when he went out on his daily exercise.

Jody Richardson, 43 said he “saw in the region of 25 to 30 people” and “very little or no social distancing” when he went for a walk with his partner and children at Orwell Country Park this afternoon.

He told the PA news agency: “We felt so disgusted that it was happening in our area that we cut short our walk with our children and our dog and turned around and headed home.

He added: “There was very little room on the paths to be able to safely avoid people and leave the two metre gap.”

Mr Gove urged people to consider the current pressure on the NHS, and to ask themselves: “How am I helping in this shared national effort?”

He added: “I know that lockdown is challenging, I know it’s very difficult, particularly for families with children.

“But people must at every stage respect these guidelines because that is the only way of making sure we restrict the spread of the disease.”

One place inundated with people was Brockwell Park in south London, which will now be closed on Sunday because so many flouted the Government’s social distancing advice, Lambeth Council said.

It tweeted: “Despite clear advice, over 3000 people spent today in Brockwell Park, many of them sunbathing or in large groups. This is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the actions of a minority now means that, following police advice, Brockwell Park will be closed tomorrow. #StayHome”

The council added: “We are sorry we’ve had to take this decision. This wouldn’t need to happen if people followed the clear instructions from the Govt. We are doing this for the wider safety of the public. A minority of people have not followed the guidance – regrettably we have to act.”

Pleas to adhere to the lockdown are being transmitted nationwide, and Bournemouth pier has been adorned with the message “Stay home” – with just a few people seen making their way along the mostly deserted sands on Saturday.

There were similarly sparse scenes in Canon Hill Park in Birmingham, where a few people were pictured out running.

People sit under a ‘Stay home’ sign on a deserted Bournemouth beach. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Earlier on Saturday, second homeowners were told to keep away from their holiday properties as police forces warned they would issue fines to anyone making non-essential journeys this weekend.

Gloucestershire Police said officers will be stopping people who look like they may be heading away for a few days.

The force said: “There has been particular concern among some communities that people who own second homes in the area will be visiting over the Easter holiday,” and they may put extra pressure on the local NHS.

Authorities in Wales have closed beach-side car parks to deter people from “using the weather to treat what is a national crisis like a national holiday”.

The message is clear that this area of Boscombe beach is closed. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

Mark Thomas, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure at Swansea Council, said: “We absolutely cannot afford a repeat of the behaviour witnessed on previous occasions.”

Dorset Council has taken the same approach, and the council has closed seafront parking bays and stopped the RNLI patrol in an attempt to prevent people from gathering at the seaside.

Met Office meteorologist Steven Keates said Sunday will be “a beautiful spring day” with “blue skies and sunshine for much of the day for much of the UK”.

He predicted some parts of the UK “could be seeing 20-21C”, which would be “the first time we’ve reached over 20 since October 1 last year”.

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