Police have warned Britons to stay away from holiday hotspots and stick to social distancing rules amid fears that people will start breaking lockdown over the bank holiday weekend.
Boris Johnson is expected to lay out a ‘roadmap’ for how lockdown measures will be eased across the UK on Sunday, and has hinted that he will announce a limited return to pre-pandemic life in an address to the nation.
But authorities are concerned that the anticipation of a loosening of restrictions, plus a sunny bank holiday weekend, could lead to people breaking lockdown rules and risking a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
The prime minister was due to meet with members of cabinet on Thursday to review whether it is safe to ease lockdown measures.
Potential changes could include unlimited exercise, the return of some sports, park picnics, and the opening of pub and cafe gardens, though still with social distancing in place.
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But Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has urged people not to be too expectant, with the government keen to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 triggered by relaxing measures too quickly.
He told Sky News on Thursday: “I think it would be wrong to get too carried away. I think we’ve got to understand that this is a pandemic and a virus that spreads so easily that we have to be very cautious as we look at how we come out of the current lockdown.
“The worst thing that could happen would be to have a very fast, quick and dangerous second peak to this virus.”
His warning came as Devon and Cornwall Police urged people not to break lockdown rules as part of its Think Twice campaign.
Assistant chief constable Glen Mayhew said: “This is an unprecedented public health emergency and it is taking an unprecedented national effort to fight this virus. What we do collectively can mean the difference between saving lives and risking lives.
“The lockdown that we are currently living through affects us; not being able to be with family or friends; impacts on peoples work and businesses; financial concerns and the impact that this plays on our mental health – this is a challenging time.
“We need to do all we can to prevent this virus from gaining the ability to escalate further. So I am asking you to ‘Think Twice’ before you consider leaving your home”.
He said the warning was particularly relevant amid celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day and urged people to mark the end of the Second World War in Europe in a safe way.
“Now is not the time to relax social distancing measures and to pop and see a few friends,” he added. “The government direction, at this time, continues to be to socially distance and it is important that we all adhere to it.
“An area that concerns me is the gathering of groups. Whilst we will continue to engage with people to understand, over the weekend my officers will enforce as a last resort.”
Similar warnings were issued ahead of the Easter weekend amid fears that a warm start to the weekend would see lockdown rules broken.
At the time, councils across the UK warned anyone planning weekend trips that they would be turned away by police, while tourist hotspots said holidaymakers and second homeowners were not welcome during the Easter break.
Last week police figures revealed that more than 9,000 fines had been issued across England and Wales to people breaking lockdown restrictions.
They included one man who travelled to a friend’s house to dye their hair but claimed he didn’t know lockdown restrictions were in place, while another saw four young men stopped by police after travelling to get a burger.