Ministers fear the UK could go ‘back to square one’ in the fight against coronavirus if Britons do not adhere to lockdown rules as data suggests people have been flouting restrictions for weeks.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night pleaded with people to stick to current restrictions which prohibit meeting more than one person from outside your household outdoors.
But there are increasing signs that many have given up on lockdown measures, sparking growing fears of a potential second wave of the deadly disease.
New data published today suggests some people were bending the rules even before Boris Johnson set out his lockdown exit strategy on May 10.
Google footfall data showed the number of people visiting parks was above pre-lockdown levels in the days leading up to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation.
Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics today revealed almost one in five adults are meeting up with friends or family from outside their household.
Google footfall data showed the number of people visiting parks was above pre-lockdown levels in the days leading up to the Prime Minister’s address to the nation
However, the Google data, compiled by tracking the location of mobile phones, showed footfall at transport hubs remained far below pre-lockdown levels
It is the same story in terms of the number of people going to essential shops like supermarkets
Matt Hancock last night warned the nation risks going back to ‘square one’ if people do not stick to coronavirus lockdown rules
Warm weather has seen people flock to the UK’s public spaces in recent days. People are pictured enjoying the sunshine in East London yesterday
A large group of friends is pictured gathering in Regent’s Park in central London on May 20
UK announces 351 more Covid-19 deaths
Britain today announced 351 more coronavirus deaths, taking the official number of victims to 36,393 as Government scientists warned the reproductive rate is still teetering on the brink of spiralling back out of control.
Today’s death toll is marginally lower than the 363 recorded yesterday, the lowest figure on a Thursday since March 26 (103).
Experts sitting on Number 10’s SAGE panel today revealed the crucial R-value – the average number of people that will contract coronavirus from an infected person – was between 0.7 and 1 across the UK for the second week in a row.
Officials must keep the number below 1 otherwise the outbreak will start to grow again and threaten a second wave.
However, the latest data is three weeks out of date due to a lag in the government’s mathematical modelling.
The Government’s current lockdown rules state that you are allowed to meet up with one friend or family member from outside your household outdoors if you remain at least two metres apart.
Meanwhile, day trips to the park or to the beach are permitted with members of your household.
A spell of warm weather in recent days has seen thousands of Britons flock to the nation’s public spaces.
But there have been numerous examples of people breaking the rules with police having to warn people not to camp overnight in a number of locations.
Rule-breaking campers in Devon and Cornwall were sent home by officers while traffic wardens issued more than 70 tickets in the coastal town of Woolacombe as all car parks were shut to keep away visitors.
Parks across the country have also been packed as people have met up with friends.
Mr Hancock suggested yesterday at the daily Downing Street press conference that a failure to adhere to restrictions could have devastating consequences.
He said: ‘Let’s not go back to square one. We can all play our part in the national effort.’
If the rate of transmission of coronavirus was to spike the Government would likely move to reimpose a stricter lockdown.
Senior police officers are increasingly concerned that some people appear to have given up on the rules with one chief constable telling The Times: ‘I think people no longer understand what they can do – or think it is no longer important.’
Google footfall data published today suggested many people were not adhering to the rules even before Mr Johnson set out his plan to ease lockdown.
The data which is compiled by monitoring the number of mobile phones at a certain location showed that between May 4-8 activity in parks was above pre-lockdown levels with footfall 16 per cent above the baseline on May 6 and 7.
Nobel Prize-winning scientist tears into Boris Johnson’s lack of political leadership
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist tore into Boris Johnson’s leadership during the coronavirus crisis today, claiming it was not clear ‘who is actually in charge of the decisions’.
Sir Paul Nurse said Britain has been constantly on the ‘back foot’ with a lack of clear planning resulting in ministers ‘firefighting through successive crises’.
The chief executive of the distinguished Francis Crick Institute said the country had been ‘increasingly playing catch-up’ and politicians should lay out ‘a much clearer publicly-presented strategy’.
Sir Paul’s intervention came as the Government faced increasing pressure over its handling of the pandemic.
It is facing ongoing criticism over the rate of deaths in care homes, a decision to abandon widespread testing early on and the slow roll out of a new contact tracing programme.
The baseline number is the average for the corresponding day during the five week period between January 3 and February 6.
However, the data did show that footfall in supermarkets and at transport hubs has remained much lower than normal during the lockdown period.
ONS data today suggests many people are not sticking to Mr Johnson’s new guidance on only meeting one person outside their household outdoors.
A survey conducted between May 14 and 17 showed that 39 per cent of adults had visited a park or public green space in the past seven days.
But some 17 per cent admitted they had met up with friends or family from outside their household.
Meanwhile, the ONS social impact survey also revealed some of the most common reasons why people have left their homes during lockdown.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, number one on the list is to go shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine with 80 per cent of people having left their house of that reason.
An ONS survey conducted between May 14 and 17 cast light on the reasons why people have been leaving their homes
The latest Downing Street transport data showed increases in the number of people using cars but public transport usage remains low
Crowds of people visiting Southend beach during hot and sunny weather in Southend, Essex today as temperatures rise
Government expert says swifter lockdown could have saved thousands of lives
Thousands of lives could have been saved from Covid-19 if Britain’s lockdown was imposed just one week earlier, a government scientific adviser has claimed.
Sir Ian Boyd, a member of Number 10’s SAGE panel, admitted ‘it would have made quite a big difference’ if ministers acted sooner to contain the outbreak.
Department of Health figures show 36,042 Brits have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, which began to rapidly spread in the UK in March.
But the true number of Covid-19 victims is feared to be closer to the 60,000-mark, when suspected and indirect deaths are taken into account.
Sir Ian’s claim comes after research this week claimed triggering the UK’s lockdown a week earlier would have saved tens of thousands of lives.
The shock study suggested enforcing strict rules to fight the coronavirus crisis on March 16 could have limited the number of deaths to 11,200.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the country into lockdown on March 23.
Second on the list was exercise with 70 per cent while travelling and from work was third with 28 per cent.
Some 12 per cent of people said they had left their home during lockdown to run errands.
The data also suggests much of the population believes the UK will be fundamentally changed in its outlook by the current outbreak.
Some 42 per cent of respondents said they believed Britain to be kind before the outbreak.
But 61 per cent said they believed Britain will be kind after the current pandemic.
The survey showed widespread disquiet over the impact the outbreak is having on daily life.
Just shy of three quarters of adults (72 per cent) said they were concerned at the damage coronavirus was doing to their lives.
Levels of concern were slightly higher among at-risk groups with 73 per cent of over-70s and 82 per cent of those with underlying health conditions saying they were concerned.
Women were more likely to show higher levels of concern about the impact of the virus than men, 79 per cent to 66 per cent.
The most common concern expressed by respondents was a ‘lack of freedom and independence’ with almost two thirds of adults saying this was affecting them.
An inability to make plans was cited as a major concern by 54 per cent of UK adults.
The findings come after a major study found less than half of 19 to 30-year-olds are ‘strictly’ abiding by the lockdown rules.
Among all adults the figure has dropped from 70 per cent to under 60 per cent in the last fortnight.