Britons are being warned this isn’t a “normal bank holiday weekend” in a bid to encourage them to resist the temptations of the warm weather and stop the spread of coronavirus.
A top police officer said if some people continued ignoring the COVID-19 lockdown laws over the Easter weekend then the government could impose tougher measures.
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, pleaded with those people still ignoring the rules to stay indoors – despite what’s forecast to be a bright and sunny few days for many.
So far, at least 7,978 people with COVID-19 have died across the UK.
The UK is just over two weeks into the lockdown, which looks set to be extended by the government at the promised review point next Thursday.
David Lewis, deputy chief constable of Dorset Police, told Sky News that officers would be stationed on arterial roads to check people aren’t visiting holiday homes or beauty spots this weekend.
“My guidance would be: If you have to ask yourself ‘is this an essential journey’ then it probably isn’t, so turn round and stay home,” he said.
Some forces have faced criticism for their approach to enforcing the lockdown, with Cambridge Police clarifying its approach after an officer posted on social media they were monitoring “non-essential” supermarket aisles.
But others have been met with aggression in their attempts to ensure people are not heading outdoors unnecessarily, with an officer badly bitten by a man in Rochdale following reports he was causing a disturbance.
The 29-year-old man was arrested after the two attending officers were punched, with one – a 21-year-old woman – needing hospital treatment after being “seriously bitten”.
Police Federation chief Mr Apter said the “vast majority” of Britons are following the law but a minority are either “genuinely confused by the guidance or they’re completely oblivious to the dangers”.
“Policing is a tough job at the best of times but in some areas it’s making that difficult job even more difficult,” he told Sky News’ All Out Politics.
“I would beg the public – please, take the advice and stay at home, unless you have to venture out for those essential journeys.”
He warned if people were allowed to sit and have barbecues in parks – even if with members of their own house and observing social distancing – then it would quickly turn into “any other normal bank holiday weekend where the parks are packed full of people wanting to enjoy the sunshine”.
“We are not in a normal bank holiday weekend, and it’s about trying to encourage and support the public,” Mr Apter added.
“This is not lockdown; lockdown is what we’ve seen on mainland Europe and we don’t want to go there.
Coronavirus UK tracker: How many cases are in your area – updated daily
“But my fear is that if people continue to ignore this guidance, these rules that have been laid before parliament, then the government could go further. Nobody wants that.”
Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, reiterated the point – telling Sky News that “just because the sun is out doesn’t mean we should be out”.
He urged people to stay at home so the country can “lock down the benefits of the lockdown” and stop more deaths.
“We’re hopeful we’re beginning to see a plateau. But we need to keep complying with the instructions – that’s the way that plateau will then translate into a drop,” he explained.
“And that’s the way we will have the best chance of minimising the number of deaths we will see.”