Health Secretary Matt Hancock has criticised sunbathers for breaking lockdown rules and warned those ignoring the advice to stay home that they are putting people’s lives at risk.
Following the emergence of photographs and footage of people enjoying the sunshine during the warmest weekend of the last six months, Mr Hancock insisted sunbathing is not allowed.
His message to the British public on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme was clear: If you want the lockdown to end without tougher restrictions coming into force, follow the rules.
He said: “The vast majority of people are following the public health advice, which is absolutely critical, and staying at home.
“But there are a small minority of people who are still not doing that – it’s quite unbelievable frankly to see that there are some people who are not following the advice.”
Asked whether sunbathing in public spaces was against the law, he said: “Sunbathing is against the rules that have been set out for important public health reasons.”
He warned those who are flouting the guidance: “You are putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way.”
Asked whether she agreed with Mr Hancock, Labour’s newly-elected deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “It’s alright for people who have got big houses and huge back gardens to say that.
“But actually if you’re stuck in inadequate accommodation, you’ve got no back garden, you’ve got nowhere to go and you’re all on top of each other, quite literally, then I think people should do social distancing and should keep their distance but also be reasonable and proportionate about that.”
She also criticised Mr Hancock for going out to work a week after contracting COVID-19.
Ms Rayner, who herself has been self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms, said she was in bed for six days and her symptoms were “very debilitating”.
She said: “I’m disappointed that Matt Hancock, after seven days of having the virus, went out when the World Health Organisation has said you should self-isolate for 14 days.
“I think it’s right that we do that because I cannot stress enough the severity of the symptoms that I have suffered, as you can tell from how breathless I am still now, and I’m day nine, day 10.
“I think the government really need to give that clarity and continue to support people doing the right thing.”
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Clear skies and temperatures of upwards of 18C (64.4F) have been forecast for today, amid pleas from ministers, NHS chiefs and academics for people to resist the temptation to head out to enjoy the sunshine.
Chief nursing officer for NHS England, Ruth May, begged people to stay at home, asking them to remember the front line NHS workers who have lost their lives to the virus while battling to save others from the disease.
Among the deaths confirmed on Friday were two NHS nurses – Areema Nasreen and Aimee O’Rourke.