Police say it's ‘crystal clear’ some are unable to follow rules as restaurants and pubs reopen in England

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - It was “crystal clear” that some revellers were unable follow social distancing rules, police in England said after authorities began the most significant easing of lockdown since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Across England, crowds of revellers were in central London and northern cities including Newcastle and Leeds as restaurants, pubs and businesses such as hairdressers opened for the first time in more than three months.

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation in the southern city of Southampton, said it was plain that some would not follow the country’s rule of staying one metre apart.

Mr Apter said he had dealt with anti-social incidents during the night.

The day, called “Super Saturday", marked a major step towards returning to normal life in England as outdoor gyms, children’s playgrounds, libraries, cinemas, museums and galleries were also allowed to reopen.

Worshippers queue to enter Westminster Cathedral in London on July 5, 2020 for Sunday Mass on the first Sunday since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased to allow for communal prayer AFP
Worshippers queue to enter Westminster Cathedral in London on July 5, 2020 for Sunday Mass on the first Sunday since coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased to allow for communal prayer AFP

Religious services were allowed and weddings returned with up to 30 guests.

Despite the clear examples of rule breaking, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vast majority had followed the rules.

“I think that from what I've seen, although there's some pictures to the contrary, very, very largely people have acted responsibly,” Mr Hancock told Sky News.

“It was really good to see people out and about and largely, very largely social distancing."

The UK government and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have faced stark criticism over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The country has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, which has resulted in more than 44,200 deaths and 285,000 confirmed cases.

Customers sit at socially distanced tables in Covent Garden in London on July 4, 2020, as restrictions are further eased during the novel coronavirus  pandemic AFP
Customers sit at socially distanced tables in Covent Garden in London on July 4, 2020, as restrictions are further eased during the novel coronavirus  pandemic AFP

On Sunday, another 18 people who tested positive for coronavirus died in hospital in England, the National Health Service said.

The figures did not include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have their own rules for relaxing lockdown measures.

Before the new rules came into effect, Mr Johnson and government experts urged people to stick to the rules to avoid a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Speaking on Friday, chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty said the next step to relaxing the lockdown was not without risk.

"It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it,” Prof Whitty said.

He said the new conditions would undoubtedly encourage people to get together.

"That's a great thing to do socially but it's also a great thing from the virus's point of view," Prof Whitty said.

"Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing while also enjoying pubs."

In Leicester city, a surge in cases led to a local lockdown and exclusion from the easing.

Officials and experts have warned that similar lockdowns would probably be necessary in other places as authorities avoid a second wave of the disease.

The rise in cases in Leicester has been tied to outbreaks in the city’s food and clothing producers.

The Sunday Times reported claims that workers in Leicester's Jaswal Fashions factory, making clothes for Boohoo brand Nasty Gal, were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour and operating without social distancing.

The findings prompted an investigation by the National Crime Agency, and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel called the accusations "appalling".

Nasty Gal told The Sunday Times the company would investigate the claims but said the factory was not a "direct supplier".

"Nasty Gal does not allow any of its suppliers to pay less than the minimum wage and has a zero-tolerance approach to incidences of modern slavery,” the company said.

Updated: July 6, 2020 01:50 AM

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