Sales of paddling pools and barbeques have skyrocketed in the lead up to the Easter weekend as Brits prepare for a sun-drenched lockdown in the back garden after police threatened to stomp out all non-essential travel.
Forecasts for warm and sunny weather for much of the double Bank Holiday weekend has seen garden items such as sun loungers and parasols sell out on online marketplaces.
Amazon reported a 4,000 per cent rise in the sale of paddling pools in the last 24 hours, while Waitrose saw a threefold increase in the sale of yoga equipment.
Brits are also continuing to load up on food and drink, with Hotel Chocolat revealing that it had seen a 400 per cent increase in online orders for Easter eggs, while Thorntons had seen a similarly ‘dramatic increase’.
Alcohol sales are still rising, too, with wine sales in supermarkets and corner shops jumping up by 22 per cent in March, according to consumer analysts Kantar.
Discount website Vouchercodes said it had seen a 445 per cent increase in the search for DIY equipment in the week-long lead up to the Easter weekend, as well as a 565 per cent rise in searches for gardening equipment.
Shoppers queue using social distancing outside an Asda supermarket in Gateshead, north-east England yesterday as Brits loaded up on garden items ahead of the long weekend
Officers from North Yorkshire Police are seen yesterday in York as they stop motorists in cars to check that their travel is ‘essential’
It comes as some police chiefs called for laws to ban Britons from driving long distances and flouting rules to exercise more than once a day ahead of a 77F (25C) Easter weekend.
Northamptonshire Police said the ‘three-week grace period is over’ and threatened that they may even soon start ‘checking the items in baskets and trolleys’.
Its Chief Constable Nick Adderley said: ‘We will not at this stage be starting to marshal supermarkets and checking the items in baskets and trolleys to see whether it’s a legitimate and necessary item.
‘But again, be under no illusion, if people do not heed the warnings, and the pleas that I’m making, we will start to do that.’
And he added: ‘If things don’t improve, and we don’t get the compliance we would expect, then the next stage will be road blocks and it will be stopping people to ask why they are going, where they’re going.’
But asked about the prospect of police officers potentially checking shopping trolleys, Ms Patel told TalkRADIO: ‘That is not appropriate, let me be clear on that… that is not the guidance.’
Officers in Windermere, Cumbria, are already sending people in camper vans home, while locals in St Ives, Cornwall, blocked some roads to protect vulnerable residents.
Police have also created online forms for people to report potential breaches of the lockdown which was imposed on March 23 to slow the spread of the deadly disease.
Brits are continuing to load up on food and drink, with shoppers pictured here as they queued up to enter a Sainsbury’s supermarket in west London ahead of the Easter weekend
Police officers talk to members of the public at a park in Northampton yesterday, as Northants Police announced they are toughening up their social distancing enforcement
Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley (pictured today) said his force is only ‘a few days away’ from introducing road blocks and searching shopping trolleys
Merseyside Police said it will begin randomly stopping cars in its area to ensure drivers are sticking to lockdown rules ahead of the weekend.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has not been seen or heard in public since March 23, said in an unexpected radio interview this evening that police must not act in a ‘heavy-handed’ manner during the coronavirus lockdown.
She also said the government will ‘absolutely not’ be increasing police powers amid concerns about the way in which some officers have interpreted government guidance on breaking up groups and stopping journeys.
Ms Patel’s intervention came as:
- England, Scotland and Wales recorded 887 more coronavirus deaths yesterday, taking Britain’s total to 7,984 as the coronavirus crisis continues;
- Downing Street said Britain was at a ‘critical juncture’ in the battle to curb the spread of the disease;
- The Government made clear there can be no early lifting of the strict social distancing rules, urging the public to ‘stick with it’;
- Boris Johnson’s condition is ‘continuing to improve’ after a third night in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London where he is being treated for coronavirus.
At least five chief constables are calling for the introduction of more stringent restrictions and clearer rules – including laws to enforce limiting exercise to a one-hour period outdoors after some people flouted it to sunbathe in parks or beaches.
Mr Adderley said forces are ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ when it comes to implementing the lockdown rules, and said the government guidance ‘could be even clearer’.
Police in Cumbria turned around a family of two adults and four children who were visiting Windermere yesterday – and sent them back on the motorway to Leigh in Greater Manchester
Two men from Yorkshire were stopped in Windemere today after heading there to go canoeing
A police officer approaches a man using an outdoor gym at a park in Northampton today
Cumbria Police posted this picture yesterday of force patrol cars in the town of Alston
Reacting to the trolley claims made by Mr Adderley, ex-justice secretary David Gauke said they were ‘wholly inappropriate’ and reveal ‘worrying and unacceptable authoritarian instincts.’
Civil liberties campaigners were also furious, with Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo stating the ‘suggestion of police rummaging through people’s shopping trolleys is outrageous’ as she questioned what the legal basis would be for doing so.
Mr Adderley later attempted to clarify his remarks, tweeting: ‘To be clear on the shopping trolley issue: This is about essential and necessary journeys, not what’s in your trolley. I have been clear that we will not be judge and jury on what is an essential item or not, but we may now probe the purpose of the journey.’
The police have the power to issue fines to people who gather in groups during the lockdown. People are only supposed to go outside for food, medicine, to get to work, or for exercise once a day.
The emergency Coronavirus Act gave police powers to impose restrictions on ‘events and gatherings’ and it has been suggested that this could be used by forces in an attempt to justify road blocks.
However, the law does not include any provision that could force people to require prior permission, show paperwork, or demonstrate reasonable cause for leaving their home.
A block stopping people going down a pedestrian-only street in St Ives, Cornwall, asking them to use an alternative route instead to avoid vulnerable people
An overhead sign on the M8 in Glasgow advises people today not to travel this Easter weekend, with concerns that the hot weather will lead to Brits flouting lockdown rules
A stream of people are pictured as they make their way down Putney Embankment in South West London yesterday while enjoying the sunshine
Police forces in Cambridgeshire, London, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Kent and Avon and Somerset have all brought in online services for the public to report potential breaches of the lockdown rules.
The announcement on the online forms from Cambridgeshire Constabulary faced some criticism online, with one person describing it as a ‘revolting’ idea.
But a spokesman for the force urged people to only use the form ‘if there is a significant issue or breach’.
Police forces in beauty spots across Britain have reported seeing visitors travel long distances from their homes to enjoy the recent warm weather.
People travelled far to spend time in Cumbria last weekend, while Malham Cove in North Yorkshire had visitors from Bradford, Leeds and Oldham – which is more than 50 miles away.
In the South West, Chief Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith, police commander for Cornwall, warned non-residents to stay away from the area.
He said: ‘Our officers will be patrolling this weekend, firstly on the M5 and A30 in an attempt to prevent visitors from entering the force area, and then locally to enforce the restrictions.
‘We will do so in a fair and balanced manner, but travelling down to the West Country is a serious breach of these restrictions and those doing so can expect to receive a fine.’
The residents of Worth Matravers, on the Purbeck coast of Dorset, where a sign is pictured today, say there has been an influx of second home owners since the coronavirus took hold