Are tougher social restrictions needed to combat coronavirus?
- Credit: PA
Would you support tougher social restrictions in the fight to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic?
Health secretary Matt Hancock suggested on Sunday that tougher restrictions may be required if some people continue to flout government guidelines on social interaction, saying that being allowed to leave the house for one form of exercise a day may be reviewed.
That was followed by housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick saying on Monday that he had called local leaders to warn them to be “very judicious” in locking open spaces, after one London authority closed a park over the weekend due to thousands of visitors flocking to it to enjoy the sun and warmth breaking through.
Locally, Norfolk Constabulary received 300 calls relating to coronavirus concerns over the weekend, with 109 warnings handed out and 16 court summons issued.
Government guidance at gov.uk/coronavirus states that people should only leave the house for the following “very limited purposes”.
- Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
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- One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
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- Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
Nationally, figures up to Sunday April 5 show that 4,934 people have died because of Covid-19 since the outbreak started in the UK in early March, a rise of 621 on the previous day, with a total of 47,806 confirmed cases.
Locally, 51 people in Norfolk have died in hospital after testing positive for the virus but with 279 confirmed cases the county remains within the 20 counties to have the lowest cases per 100,000 people, at 30.9.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One on Sunday morning, West Suffolk MP Mr Hancock said: “We’ve said it’s okay to go for exercise because both the physical and mental health benefits of getting some exercise are really important.
“I don’t want to have to take away exercise as a reason to leave home... if too many people are not following the rules.
“At the moment the vast majority of people are (following the guidance) but people should not break the rules because that will mean that the virus spreads more and then we might have to take further action.”
The health secretary, later speaking during the government’s daily press conference on Sunday afternoon, as the country prepared to enter its third week in lockdown, also explained it was unclear when the rules could be changed because of ongoing questions around whether those who have had the illness have developed sufficient immunity.
Mr Hancock, who returned from self-isolation on Friday after being struck ill with Covid-19, said: “Even for those of us who have had it where the science predicts it’s likely that our immunity is higher and our ability to transmit the virus is lower.
“We are not yet confident enough how high the immunity is and how much lower the likelihood of those of us who have had the disease transmitting it is, to be able change the rules.
“The rules are the same for everyone and will be until the science can give us confidence that we can say something different to those who have been through it.”
Earlier, the Met Office had confirmed Sunday was the warmest day of the year so far, with both Heathrow and Kew Gardens recording temperatures of almost 20C.
Speaking at the press conference, Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, added: “It is not just what you are doing but how you are doing it.
“If you are sitting on a park bench, people tend to accumulate - it is very difficult to prevent that.
“Having rules where we are getting all of the benefits and minimising the risks and harms is an important approach to maintain.
“We have set those rules, we are enforcing against those rules and we will reiterate those rules, because that is the best way to be able to bend the curve down and stop the spread of the virus.”
Sunny, warmer-than-average conditions are set to continue this week, with a peak of around 24C (75.2F) forecast for Wednesday and Thursday in southern England, the Met Office said.
What do you think? Cast your vote in the poll above and leave a comment below.
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