Health Secretary Matt Hancock blasts sunbathers for flouting coronavirus lockdown

Matt Hancock today blasted sunbathers for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules as he warned the government will ban ‘all forms’ of outdoor exercise if a ‘small minority’ refuse to stay at home. 

The Health Secretary said it was ‘quite unbelievable’ some people are still not following government guidance and stressed the plea not to go outside apart from in very specific circumstances was ‘not a request, it is a requirement’.    

A number of other countries have banned outdoor exercise in a bid to slow the spread of the disease and Mr Hancock said the government is willing to take the same action if people do not comply with existing restrictions. 

He said: ‘My message is really clear: If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home, then you have got to follow the rules.

‘The vast majority of people are following the rules. Let’s not have a minority spoiling it for everybody.’

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson repeated the importance of staying at home this morning as he tweeted he knows it is ‘tough’ but it will mean ‘saving lives’.

Mr Hancock and Mr Johnson’s interventions came after a south London park was shut indefinitely yesterday after 3,000 people visited ‘despite clear advice’ not to as green spaces and beaches across the UK filled up. 

Mr Hancock told Sky News: ‘It is quite unbelievable frankly to see that there are some people who are not following the advice.’

The government has said that people should only leave their home for food, for medicine, for exercise or to get to work if they absolutely cannot work from where they live. 

Mr Hancock said staying at home is ‘the best way to control the spread of this virus and the fastest way to get us out of this’ as he said the guidance is ‘absolutely clear’ that people should not be out sunbathing in public. 

He said: ‘Of course I understand how difficult this is but the problem is that when you go out it is not only that you might directly interact with somebody closer than two metres, it is also that you can spread the virus through touching something which somebody else then touches. You could pick it up that way. 

‘We are crystal clear in the guidance on what people should and shouldn’t do. That guidance is backed up in law. It is not a request, it is a requirement in law and people need to follow it.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock admitted this morning that hitting his promise of 100,000 coronavirus tests by the end of April will be ‘hard’ and that people involved in the efforts will have to ‘put their shoulders to the wheel’ to hit the target. 

He also insisted Mr Johnson is ‘okay’ despite still being in coronavirus self-isolation, with the Health Secretary saying the PM ‘has very much got his hand on the tiller’ of the crisis. 

Mr Hancock’s comments came as: 

  • Sadiq Khan hit out at commuters for failing to stay at home following the deaths of five London bus workers who tested positive for coronavirus.  
  • Health experts warned that while new cases of coronavirus appear to have stabilised, now is not the time to ‘take our foot off the pedal’. 
  • John Alagos, a 23-year-old NHS nurse, died after treating patients with coronavirus, his mother told the Mail on Sunday.
  • Carrie Symonds, Mr Johnson’s pregnant fiancee, said she had spent the last week in bed suffering coronavirus symptoms, but is ‘on the mend’. 
  • Health chiefs fear more than 50 doctors could die ‘if the PPE dries up and we have no choice but to treat our patients without the right equipment’.
  • The Ministry of Justice said hundreds of risk-assessed prisoners within two months of their release date are to be temporarily released. 
  • The UK death toll from the virus rose by 708 – bringing the number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths to 4,313 as of 5pm on Friday.
Matt Hancock today took aim at sunbathers flouting coronavirus lockdown rules as he said it was 'unbelievable' a 'small minority' of people are not staying at home

Matt Hancock today took aim at sunbathers flouting coronavirus lockdown rules as he said it was 'unbelievable' a 'small minority' of people are not staying at home

Matt Hancock today took aim at sunbathers flouting coronavirus lockdown rules as he said it was ‘unbelievable’ a ‘small minority’ of people are not staying at home

Prime MinisterBoris Johnson today urged people to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown

Prime MinisterBoris Johnson today urged people to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown

Prime MinisterBoris Johnson today urged people to stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown

The Queen will tonight deliver a rallying cry to the nation in which she expresses hope that the ¿quiet, good-humoured resolve¿ of the British people will help to overcome the coronavirus crisis

The Queen will tonight deliver a rallying cry to the nation in which she expresses hope that the ¿quiet, good-humoured resolve¿ of the British people will help to overcome the coronavirus crisis

The Queen will tonight deliver a rallying cry to the nation in which she expresses hope that the ‘quiet, good-humoured resolve’ of the British people will help to overcome the coronavirus crisis

Sadiq Khan hits out at commuters who refuse to stay at home after ‘devastating’ deaths of five bus workers

Sadiq Khan has hit out at commuters who are refusing to stay at home following the deaths of five London bus workers who tested positive for Covid-19.

The mayor of the capital said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ following the coronavirus deaths.

He tweeted a statement saying that ‘lives depend’ on people following Government rules to stay at home unless travel is essential.

Meanwhile, trade union Unite said the deaths were a ‘terrible tragedy’. 

 Mr Khan said: ‘I have been clear that our incredible public transport staff – on the buses, tubes, trams and trains – are critical workers, making a heroic effort to allow our NHS staff to save more lives.

‘But we need to play our part too and that means fewer Londoners using the public transport network.

‘Please follow the rules. Stay at home and do not use public transport unless it is absolutely unavoidable.’ 

So far coronavirus has taken the lives of 4,313 people in the UK, with 41,903 cases of the disease.  

The nation will tonight hear from the Queen as the monarch delivers an address in which she will urge Britain to prove that this generation is ‘as strong as any’. 

There are fears the current warm weather could tempt people to flaunt social distancing measures and the government will be hoping the Queen’s address will persuade people to stick to the rules, especially as the sun shines.

Lambeth Council tweeted yesterday to say that Brockwell Park had been shut because of the ‘unacceptable’ behaviour of some people. 

Mr Hancock today said ending lockdown measures ‘depends on how people behave’ as he urged everyone to stay at home but failed to set out a timeline for life to go back to normal. 

He told Sky News: ‘Every single person watching this programme can do their bit to get us out of this faster and they do their bit by following the social distancing rules.’ 

Labour’s new leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party will back the government if it decides to ban public exercise. 

He told the BBC: ‘Yes, we would. We do have to take whatever steps are necessary and social distancing, staying indoors is really difficult for people… but we have got to get through this and every time people break the guidance from the government they put other people at risk.’      

It came as it emerged that Mr Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are locked in a battle over when to lift the economically devastating lockdown. 

Mr Sunak has made ‘robust’ representations to the Health Secretary, arguing that unless a path is mapped now for a swift return to normal economic activity it could cause lasting damage to the country.

Government critics of Mr Hancock argue his ‘careerist’ fear of being personally blamed for a collapse in the NHS is blinding him to the dangers of a protracted lockdown.

But allies of Mr Hancock hit back last night, saying: ‘He is just doing his job, which is to protect the NHS.’ 

A formal decision about the extension of the strict social distancing rules cannot be made until Good Friday – the earliest point at which its effects would register on the infection figures. 

However, with more than 700 extra deaths recorded yesterday, an extension for at least another three weeks after Easter is seen as a formality. 

Mr Hancock today dismissed the claims regarding his relationship with Mr Sunak as he said: ‘We are working very closely together and what matters is that we can get out of this as fast as possible and to do that we have to make sure that as many people as possible follow the rules so that we can slow the spread.’ 

The Queen will tonight deliver a televised message in which she will recognise the pain felt by many families living through this ‘time of disruption’.

She will personally thank front-line NHS staff, care workers and others carrying out essential roles for their efforts, in what is expected to be a deeply personal message reflecting her experience in other difficult times.

The UK death toll yesterday rose by 708 – bringing the number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths to 4,313 as of 5pm on Friday, up from 3,605 the day before. A five-year-old child was among the victims. 

The Queen will say in her address to the country and Commonwealth: ‘I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

‘And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.

‘That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humoured resolve and of fellow feeling still characterise this country.’

Brockwell Park in south London is now shut after thousands of people flocked there yesterday. The gates to the park are pictured today as people observe social distancing rules as they pass by

Brockwell Park in south London is now shut after thousands of people flocked there yesterday. The gates to the park are pictured today as people observe social distancing rules as they pass by

Brockwell Park in south London is now shut after thousands of people flocked there yesterday. The gates to the park are pictured today as people observe social distancing rules as they pass by 

There were plenty of people out in Greenwich Park today. The government has said people can leave their homes for exercise

There were plenty of people out in Greenwich Park today. The government has said people can leave their homes for exercise

There were plenty of people out in Greenwich Park today. The government has said people can leave their homes for exercise 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) has made 'robust' representations to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, arguing that unless a path is mapped now for a swift return to normal economic activity it could cause lasting damage to the country

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) has made 'robust' representations to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, arguing that unless a path is mapped now for a swift return to normal economic activity it could cause lasting damage to the country

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) has made ‘robust’ representations to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, arguing that unless a path is mapped now for a swift return to normal economic activity it could cause lasting damage to the country

She will acknowledge the ‘grief’ some have experienced, the ‘financial difficulties’ many face, and the ‘enormous changes’ the country is enduring, after almost two weeks of lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

With hundreds of thousands answering the call for NHS volunteers and others supporting vulnerable people in their communities, the monarch will say she hopes in the future everyone will be able to feel ‘pride’ in how they rose to the challenge.

Commenting on the difficulties facing the nation, the Queen, 93, will say: ‘I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time.

‘A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.’

In reference to the warm weather, the Queen will thank those who are following the official guidance to stay at home to protect the vulnerable.

The televised address will be a rare event, with the head of state only making three previous appearances during troubled times.  

Speeches were broadcast after the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, ahead of Diana, Princess of Wales’s funeral in 1997, and about the first Gulf War in 1991.  

One in five doctors are off work because of coronavirus reveals shocking new survey as thousands of NHS staff wait to be tested despite pledge to check 100,000 people a day by the end of the month 

One in five doctors in the UK are off work because of coronavirus, a shocking new survey has revealed. 

The poll of more than 2,500 doctors found that 18 per cent are off work, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying on Thursday that there is a 5.7 per cent absence rate among doctors. 

The figures come just a day after Britain’s death toll from the virus jumped to 708 in 24 hours, with a five-year-old child being among the 4,313 known to have died, out of 41,903 confirmed cases. 

The poll, conducted by The Sunday Times and the Royal College of Physicians, found that the worst-hit areas for absences are central London and the northeast, where 30 per cent of doctors are off work. 

One in three – 34 per cent – have been absent at some point during the coronavirus crisis. 

The shocking figures will pile pressure on ministers to ensure that NHS staff are told whether or not they have the virus, with thousands still waiting to be tested despite a pledge to test 100,000 people a day by the end of April.  

One in five doctors in the UK are off work because of coronavirus, a shocking new survey has revealed

One in five doctors in the UK are off work because of coronavirus, a shocking new survey has revealed

One in five doctors in the UK are off work because of coronavirus, a shocking new survey has revealed 

Professor Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, which represents 3,500 critical care medics, told The Sunday Times: ‘I know there are departments where up to 50 per cent of their medical staff are unable to work because of this.’ 

An A&E doctor at a London hospital said staff were ‘dropping like flies’, while as many as 27 nurses from Southend Hospital’s A&E department in Essex are said to have become ill. 

The survey also found that nearly one in four doctors have struggled to get hold of sufficient or appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

This is despite claims from ministers that they have distributed millions of items. 

At least eight NHS staff have already been killed by the virus, including three nurses, two of whom were mothers in their thirties. 

The latest nurse to die, John Alagos, 23, collapsed and died at home after an exhausting 12-hour shift. 

The poll of more than 2,500 doctors found that 18 per cent are off work and it comes just a day after Britain's death toll jumped to 708 in 24 hours. Pictured: An NHS worker puts their completed test into a container at a testing site near The 02 in Greenwich on Saturday

The poll of more than 2,500 doctors found that 18 per cent are off work and it comes just a day after Britain's death toll jumped to 708 in 24 hours. Pictured: An NHS worker puts their completed test into a container at a testing site near The 02 in Greenwich on Saturday

The poll of more than 2,500 doctors found that 18 per cent are off work and it comes just a day after Britain’s death toll jumped to 708 in 24 hours. Pictured: An NHS worker puts their completed test into a container at a testing site near The 02 in Greenwich on Saturday

His mother, Gina Gustilo, 50, told The Mail on Sunday her son had not been wearing the right protective clothing at work. 

He returned home on Friday following a night shift, after complaining of suffering a headache and high temperature throughout the night.

Ms Gustilo said her son’s colleagues told her he was not wearing ‘proper’ protective clothing, adding: ‘They wear PPE, but not totally protective of the mouth. They wear the normal masks.’ 

Richard Webber, of the College of Paramedics, said between 20 and 30 per cent of ambulance staff were off work either with Covid-19 symptoms or self-isolating.

The latest nurse to die, John Alagos, 23, collapsed and died at home after an exhausting 12-hour shift. He is believed to have died after falling ill with coronavirus

The latest nurse to die, John Alagos, 23, collapsed and died at home after an exhausting 12-hour shift. He is believed to have died after falling ill with coronavirus

The latest nurse to die, John Alagos, 23, collapsed and died at home after an exhausting 12-hour shift. He is believed to have died after falling ill with coronavirus 

Yesterday, Michael Gove said at a Downing Street press conference that just under 11,000 people were tested for the virus on Friday. 

This is far short of the 100,000 figure which Health Secretary Matt Hancock had promised by the end of the month. 

Britain’s biotech scientists also broke their silence on Saturday to warn that they do not have enough equipment to fulfil Mr Hancock’s pledge.    

The survey also found that nearly one in four doctors have struggled to get hold of sufficient or appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

The survey also found that nearly one in four doctors have struggled to get hold of sufficient or appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

The survey also found that nearly one in four doctors have struggled to get hold of sufficient or appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

The ‘frustrated’ Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), which represents around 17,000 NHS lab scientists and staff, warned that Mr Hancock’s plan would not work if things stay as they are. 

The body said there is a lack of chemical reagents, test tubes and swabs, forcing its president Allan Wilson to warn that the Government’s strategy is a ‘bit of a muddle’. 

It has forced Boris Johnson to compete with prime ministers and presidents around the world by personally calling major companies making test kits to try to secure more supply for the UK.  

The IBMS said it could only increase testing capacity ‘if we are given what we need’ and that their current supply of materials was being ‘tested to the limit’. 

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