Large groups of ‘Boozy Brit’ party revellers gathered at bars and restaurants in London, Nottingham, Manchester, Portsmouth and Leeds on Saturday evening to take advantage of their last few hours of freedom before the government tightens lockdown restrictions next week.
In London’s West End, hundreds of drinkers could be seen singing along and dancing as a busker played a tune, with hardly anyone paying attention to the government’s social distancing measures. The last time this happened was in July when the whole country celebrated the lifting of lockdown in what was termed ‘Super Saturday’.
Under Boris Johnson’s strict new measures, groups of more than six can be broken up by police who will be able to hand out €120 (£100) fines to those who flout the rules. This will double on each repeat offence up to a maximum of €3,580 (£3,200) and only schools, workplaces and a very limited number of other locations will be exempt.
Police in Manchester, where a local lockdown has been in force since July 30, said they had to break up a house party of 30 people in the early hours of Saturday morning. Police also fear a weekend of drunken carnage that could put pressure on the already strained emergency services.
National chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, has urged people to avoid a ‘party weekend’, warning his officers will take action if necessary. he said, quote: “There is a real risk some members of the public will take advantage of the current situation and treat this weekend as a party weekend ahead of the tighter restrictions being introduced on Monday.
“Alcohol and warm weather are not a good combination at the best of times. ‘Using the current situation as an opportunity and excuse to party would be incredibly irresponsible and put pressure not only on policing but potentially on the ambulance service and NHS. We are in the grip of a deadly pandemic and we have seen cases increasing over recent weeks. Policing is under pressure like never before, but my colleagues will give enforcement notices if they feel it’s appropriate, and we make no apology for doing so.”
The Rule of Six law, introduced to tackle the rising spread of coronavirus, comes as a Government-led study yesterday suggested the reproduction ‘R’ rate could be as high as 1.7 in England. Tim Robson, the North East’s representative on the national Pubwatch scheme, expected police officers would strictly monitor bars over the weekend to ensure they are operating safely.