Drunken revellers tonight kicked off the four-day Easter weekend as police were forced to break up crowds in Cardiff, Exmouth and Plymouth.
Police sent revellers packing tonight after fights broke out when around 40 people gathered for a party on a beach in Devon despite the ongoing rule of six.
Footage taken by a walker showed more than 100 people along Plymouth Hoe as crowds ignored social distancing measures and in Cardiff photographs showed crowds cramming close together at Cardiff Bay as the sun started to set this afternoon.
It comes after police stepped up patrols and begged parents to control their children over the four-day break, in the wake of carnage seen across the country this week.
Meanwhile, the UK today recorded its lowest Covid cases since September after 3,402 Britons tested positive for the virus while daily deaths dropped to 52.
The long weekend follows another hectic few days in which:
- Boris Johnson has faced a backlash over his vaccine passport plan, with MPs vowing to vote against the idea;
- Industry bosses have warned 60% of pubs will not welcome back customers on April 12 as they won’t have enough space;
- A public health expert insists Britain won’t suffer a devastating third wave because so many have been vaccinated and warmer weather is coming;
- A chief constable argued the ‘Stay Local’ advice is too ‘vague’, with police telling people to report rule-breakers;
- Police seized booze and shut parks while Britons left beaches and beauty spots covered in litter;
- The UK regulator found 25 new cases of rare blood clots among British AstraZeneca jab recipients, taking the total to 30 cases;
A woman poses for a photograph on the steps of the Senedd, home of the Welsh Parliament, at Cardiff Bay this evening
In Cardiff photographs showed crowds cramming close together at Cardiff Bay as the sun started to set this afternoon
Litter covered steps at Cardiff Bay and, as the sun started to set on Friday, hundreds of people ignored social distancing
A group of friends enjoyed drinks as they spent the afternoon together at Cardiff Bay on Friday
As the sun set a party atmosphere descended on Cardiff Bay as hundreds of young people ignored lockdown rules
Dozens of groups of young people gathered together at Cardiff Bay to drink in the street despite lockdown
An aerial view as crowds gather during the warm weather on the steps of the Senedd, home of the Welsh Parliament
In Devon, there were reports of fighting as dozens of lockdown rule-breakers ignored social distancing guidelines to meet for a party on Exmouth Beach.
Devon and Cornwall Police said they responded to reports of a mass gathering at the popular tourist spot at 6.30pm.
A police spokesman said there had been reports of fighting involving mainly youths, adding that officers in seven police vehicles including vans raced to the scene and were trying to disperse the groups.
A police spokesman said: ‘We are looking at general disorder as well as potential Covid breaches. There are no suggestions of any injuries at this time, although there are reports of fighting.’
Four groups of at least ten plus people at Orcombe Point on the sandy beach were being broken up by officers.
There have been similar problems involving drunken youths before at the beach.
And footage of a gathering in Plymouth showed dozens of people defying social distancing rules as they walked along a coastal path.
Crowds of people pictured along the seafront at Mumbles, near Swansea, as they enjoy the warm weather on Good Friday
Crowds flock to the seafront in Brighton and Hove to enjoy the sunshine at the start of the four-day Easter weekend
Lockdown restrictions eased for the first time in months on Monday, allowing groups to meet outdoors – but experts fear the loosening of rules may lead to a dangerous spike in Covid cases, with millions expected to use the four-day Easter break to enjoy the first weekend of eased restrictions to meet with family and friends.
Professor Adam Finn tweeted: ‘Throngs of young people crowded together in their hundreds enjoying the beautiful warm evening together by the water. A complete change. If this is happening everywhere then we can confidently expect case numbers to rise next week.’
And Professor Lawrence Young warned the virus was ‘still out there and very infectious’.
Seaside trips allowed but overnight stays are not: Easter’s lockdown rules
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Travel to parks, beaches or other beauty spots for the day
- Meet in such outdoor areas in a group of up to six people
- Meet another household in an outside garden
- Play sport in outdoor facilities such as tennis and basketball courts or open-air swimming pools
WHAT YOU CAN’T DO
- Meet anyone outside your household or social bubble indoors
- Stay overnight with anyone outside your household or social bubble
- Travel abroad for a holiday
The next stage of restrictions easing is set to begin on April 12, when non-essential retail, personal care premises, hairdressers and nail salons, libraries, gyms, zoos and theme parks can reopen.
Pubs and restaurants will welcome back customers outdoors, with no curfews and no need for a substantial meal, while wider social distancing rules will continue.
One household can also stay at a cottage or holiday let under these looser rules.
He told the Sun Online: ‘While the risk of transmission is low in outdoor spaces, crowding together could result in some spread of the virus and it’s too easy to take liberties which we consider to be low risk but aren’t e.g. close contact by hugging or popping inside to go to somebody else’s toilet.
‘We need to hang on in there with the current restrictions for a bit longer – none of us want another lockdown.’
Police forces across the country including Merseyside, Humberside, Dorset, Sussex and Cheshire yesterday issued stern warnings that officers will be out enforcing lockdown measures, such as the rule of six.
An RAC survey projects 5.6million cars will hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones, taking advantage of the four-day holiday and end of three-month ‘stay at home’ orders, which were replaced with ‘stay local’ on Monday.
Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions, in the face of the shrinking outbreak and successful vaccination drive. But the Prime Minister has so far defied calls from anti-lockdown Tory MPs, sticking to his ultra-cautious roadmap back to normality.
Other police chiefs warned ministers that the ‘rule of six’ is virtually unenforceable because of the two household concession, which puts no limit on numbers.
Residents living around tourism hotspots are even being encouraged to report visiting second-home owners to the police, with Dorset’s police chief warning: ‘People are very quick to pick the phone up and tell us.’
Tourism bosses also cautioned crowds against triggering a ‘false start’ and urged people to hold fire on until the next big relaxation on April 12 when bars and restaurants open.
After officers grappled with a wave of disobedience, one police chief tore into the new guidance for being too hazy.
Dorset’s chief constable James Vaughan said ‘Like the travel guidance throughout the pandemic, it is slightly vague. The message from the Government whilst in this phase of the lockdown, it is still to say broadly local.
‘That is the advice. It is very difficult to enforce because there are no regulations behind it. I am not sure the stay local message is going to be very strong.’
Police officers standing in the Castlefield Bowl area in Manchester City Centre last week after a massive rave
A survey by the RAC projects 5.6million cars will hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones, taking advantage of the four-day holiday and end of the ‘stay at home’ orders, which were replaced with ‘stay local’. Pictured, A14 traffic yesterday
Sun-seekers have since been seizing upon the recent heatwave and cramming at parks and beaches, which have been left strewn with rubbish to the disgust of locals.
Although the Met Office forecasts a looming dip in temperatures, officers are still braced for a spike in footfall at beauty spots.
Increased Easter patrols follow week of lockdown rule-breaking
Since lockdown was first eased on Monday police have been forced to disperse crowds straying beyond the newfound freedoms.
Cities across the country saw illegal gatherings broken up by officers:
MANCHESTER: Police cleared drinkers from Castlefield Bowl after revellers gathered for a live DJ set;
NOTTINGHAM: Officers seized bottles of alcohol from sunseekers and poured it onto the grass;
LEICESTER: Police begged parents to control their children, admitting they ‘could not sort this alone’;
HARBOROUGH: Councillor accused revellers they risk exploding ‘deadly Covid-19 timebomb’ after parties;
LEEDS: Police threatened to disperse further big crowds after fights broke out at Hyde Park in Leeds.
Police have also begged parents to control their children over the four-day Easter break after officers cleared thousands of boozy revellers from city centres across England last night.
Large crowds gathered in Manchester, London, Nottingham and Leeds on the last day of the UK’s searing 75F mini-heatwave, just days after national Covid-19 restrictions were eased.
Officers were seen clearing drinkers from Castlefield Bowl in Manchester city centre after hundreds gathered for a rave with a live DJ set, while police took similar action in London’s Hyde Park.
In Leeds, fights broke out in Hyde Park while police in Nottingham seized bottles of alcohol from sunseekers and poured it on the grass after ‘appalling scenes’ in the city’s arboretum earlier in the week.
While police in Leicestershire begged parents to control their children, Harborough councillor Phil Knowles accused revellers of ‘setting up another Covid-19 timebomb all set to explode’.
However, Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police has suggested the chaos witnessed on Wednesday – including a live DJ set and brawls – has been caused by ‘slightly vague’ messaging not backed by law.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped the Stay at Home diktat in England on Monday, instead swapping it for a Stay Local message to try to encourage people to be cautious as lockdown eases.
Mr Vaughan said: ‘Like the travel guidance throughout the pandemic, it is slightly vague. The message from the Government whilst in this phase of the lockdown, it is still to say broadly local. It is very difficult to enforce because there are no regulations behind it. I am not sure the stay local message is going to be very strong.’
Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner, said that police believe they can control the crowds if they can ‘get on top of control over alcohol confiscation, and make the people holding it pour it away’.
The hot weather which baked much of the UK this week is set to give way to a chilly Easter weekend, with rain on Easter Sunday and possibly sleet or snow in Scotland.
Britain records fewest daily Covid cases since September
Britain’s daily coronavirus cases have almost halved in a week to the lowest level in almost seven months, official figures revealed today.
Department of Health bosses posted another 3,402 positive tests. It is the fewest infections reported in a 24-hour period since September 17 (3,395), before the second wave spiralled out of control. Officials also recorded 52 more deaths, down 26 per cent on last Friday’s figure.
Data also showed the UK dished out 435,000 top-up vaccines yesterday, the most since the roll-out kicked off in December. Another 150,000 first doses were also administered, meaning 31.3million Brits have now been jabbed.
The promising figures came as No10’s scientific advisers claimed England’s Covid R rate has not changed since last week, with the number staying between 0.8 and 1.0.[/news/sage/index.html]
SAGE cautioned the measure — which is based on three-week-old data and shows the average number of people each infected person passes the virus on to — didn’t ‘fully reflect’ schools reopening on March 8. And the panel warned the rate may now be as high as one in every region because cases are ‘levelling off’.
But scientists tracking the outbreak through other measures say it is clear letting children back into classrooms has had very little impact on the outbreak. An array of official data yesterday revealed cases have yet to spiral out of control since No10 took the first step back to normality.
The R rate is no longer at the heart of the Government’s Covid response, and will inevitably spike when restrictions are eased over the coming months. Ministers will only feel the need to act and delay the relaxation of lockdown if hospital admissions spiral out of control, like they did in October.