Coronavirus: UK battles revellers as experts warn against complacency

Beachgoers on Bournemouth beach, southern England, on June 25, 2020.
Beachgoers on Bournemouth beach, southern England, on June 25, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

Covid-19 resurgence: Lessons from around the world

LONDON • By the tens of thousands, Britons flocked to the beaches, crowded into parks and cavorted by streams over the weekend as Britain eased its coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Police officers were attacked as they sought to disperse illegal block parties and bring brawling revellers under control.

And the English seaside resort town of Bournemouth declared a major incident, deploying additional enforcement resources, after thousands gathered at the beach to cool off from the sweltering summer heat despite the threat of the coronavirus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday warned that people in some parts of the world - including Britain - were taking too many liberties with social distancing guidelines.

"If you look at what is happening elsewhere in the world, where people have been coming out of lockdown, I'm afraid what you're also seeing is people taking too many liberties with the guidance, mingling too much, not observing social distancing," he said. "You've got really serious spikes."

He added: "You may think that you're not going to get it and you are immortal and invincible and so on, and very likely that's true, particularly if you are a young person, but the bug you carry can kill elderly people particularly, it is still dangerous."

Although the United Kingdom's stringent lockdown rules were eased significantly last week, all pubs, restaurants and cafes will remain closed until July 4, leaving the public with few venues to enjoy their newfound freedom.

"What else is there to do," said Ms Magda Bewick, who was soaking up the sun's rays on a beach. She had been placed on furlough from her job. "It's lovely, obviously to have a little sunbathe," she said.

Scientists have warned that complacency around social distancing measures could set off a second wave of the virus.

In France, the authorities reported over 1,500 new cases on Friday, a spike unseen since May 30, while the number of additional fatalities linked to the virus rose by 26, the highest in three days.

In Brazil, the second worst-hit nation after the United States, President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday appealed against a court ruling that requires him to wear a face mask in public, calling it "unnecessary".

The attorney-general's office, which represents the government in legal matters, said the ruling was redundant since face masks are already mandatory in Brasilia.

Mr Bolsonaro regularly breaks the social distancing measures in place in the capital, and generally goes around without a mask.

Brazil has recorded nearly 1.3 million Covid-19 cases and more than 56,000 deaths.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2020, with the headline 'UK battles revellers as experts warn against complacency'. Print Edition | Subscribe