George Eustice says “clearly people didn’t heed” social distancing in some areas on Thursday, as the UK death toll passes 43,000.
Some lockdown rules look inconsistent, a government minister has admitted amid scenes of packed beaches and large parties broken up by police yesterday.
Environment Secretary George Eustice implored people to follow social distancing rules, after overcrowding on Bournemouth seafront sparked a major incident warning and illegal raves were broken up in London.
He insisted that broadly the two-metre rule social distancing rule is being followed but added “clearly people didn’t heed that” in some areas on Thursday.
Mr Eustice insisted there is no mixed messaging from the government, as emergency measures are eased to different degrees across the UK.
“The advice is clear and people are heeding it,” he told Sky News.
“But it’s inevitably the case that as you start to ease these restrictions and you drop some, the ones that are left sometimes look inconsistent with that.
“It’s a very difficult thing – if we were just to remove all the restrictions then this virus would start to creep back up. So, we have to do things carefully, cautiously and incrementally.
“But I do appreciate that as you do that people sometimes see an inconsistency – that’s why you get these questions about the rules and guidance that is left.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that “our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end” with plans to reopen more shops, restaurants and pubs from 4 July.
Urged by a Brighton MP to appeal for “destination communities” to stay “extra safe”, Mr Johnson told them to “show some guts and determination, and to champion their communities as venues for people to return to and support”.
So far at least 43,000 people have died with COVID-19 in the UK – one of the highest death tolls in the world.
Mr Eustice said the government had given “very clear messages”.
But they had to be reinforced by Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer.
“If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again,” he said.
“Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.”
The health secretary has even threatened to shut beaches if people do not follow social distancing rules.
In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford condemned reports of a mass brawl at a beach Ogmore-by-Sea.
“We will not be able to continue easing restrictions if scenes like last night continue to happen,” he tweeted.
“They threaten the health of people in Wales and undermine the sacrifices the majority of people have made during this ongoing crisis.”