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Sunbathing is “against the rules” on social distancing, health secretary Matt Hancock has warned as the minister underlined coronavirus regulations are “backed up by law”.
Scorching hot weekend weather has seen people ignore the restrictions and head to beauty spots and beaches, sparking fresh concerns the disease could begin to spread more rapidly.
Speaking to Sky News the cabinet minister called their behaviour “unbelievable” and underlined that Brits can only go outside for food, medical supplies, exercise or work while the lockdown is in place.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “The vast majority of people are following the public health advice, which is absolutely critical, and staying at home.
“But there are a small minority of people who are still not doing that – it’s quite unbelievable frankly to see that there are some people who are not following the advice.”
Asked whether sunbathing in public spaces was against the law, he said: “Sunbathing is against the rules that have been set out for important public health reasons.”
He warned those who are flouting the guidance: “You are putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way.”
Sussex Police warned that social distancing had become “impossible” after scores flocked to Brighton beach on Saturday.
After 3,000 people flocked to Brockwell park, in south London, Lambeth council said it planned to close the area to the public.
‘You should not go outside to sunbathe’ – Health Secretary, Matt Hancock says the government has been ‘absolutely clear’ you should only go outside for medical supplies, to go to work, to get food or to exercise. #Ridge
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) April 5, 2020
It comes as the Queen was set to make a special address to the nation on Sunday, stressing the value or “self-discipline” and “resolve”.
Hancock added: “I welcome the fact that Her Majesty will be making one of these very rare addresses, because it recognises what an extraordinary and difficult time this is for the nation – and this point about holding our resolve is so important.
“The vast majority of people are following the public health advice, which is absolutely critical and staying at home.
“But there are a small minority of people who are not still not doing that. It’s quite unbelievable frankly, to see there are some people who are not following the advice, but the vast and overwhelming majority of people are.”
The minister refused to be drawn on how long the UK would remain in lockdown, but said if people follow the rules “we will be able to make some progress”.
He flatly denied reports that he and chancellor Rishi Sunak were divided about when to lift the measures.
“We’re working very closely together,” he said.
Hancock admitted it would be “hard” and would require “an awful lot of people to put their shoulders to the wheel” to roll out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.
“We set a goal of 10,000 test a day by the end of March and we hit that goal. At the end of February we had under 2,000 tests a day, so we are on a very rapid ramp-up but we clearly need to see that go further.”
He said 8% of NHS staff overall are currently off work, while 5.7% of doctors are off.
“Those figures are stable but we want to get them down, obviously, and one of the ways that we do that is by getting the amount of testing for NHS staff up.”