- Large numbers of British people are ignoring the government’s advice to avoid social contact as the coronavirus spreads.
- Many are gathering in busy pubs and using packed rail services despite warnings that it will encourage the spread of the disease.
- The government has asked people to avoid all unnecessary social contact but has refused to forcibly close pubs.
- But criticism is mounting over the government’s refusal to close social spaces.
- ‘There is just no good explanation of why not and it is undermining social distancing,’ he said.
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LONDON – Many British people are continuing to ignore the government’s advice to avoid social contact as the coronavirus spreads, and are flocking to busy pubs and using packed rail services despite warnings that it will encourage the spread of the disease.
Multiple pubs, particularly those in central London, continue to fill in the evenings, while pictures shared on social media show packed carriages on the London Underground as people continue to commute to work. The government’s decision to cut the number of regular services also appears to have made each journey more busy.
The Times of London newspaper reported that Italians, who are dealing with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe, have taken to resharing the images from the UK on social media in exasperation and despair. Italy has enforced a strict quarantine which permits citizens to leave their homes only when strictly necessary.
This was my commute to work in London this morning @BorisJohnson. This is what you get on London underground when you reduce the service but people still have to go to work. There was a lot of coughing too.
— Lord Riley (@DRileyamusing) March 20, 2020
The picture appears to be mixed, however, with some normally very bust pubs in areas like London’s financial district where many workers are now stationed at home, now largely deserted.
On Friday, the government’s chief science advisor Patrick Vallance repeated the government’s warning that the spread of the disease could only be limited if people followed advice to avoid all unnecessary social contact.
“The mixing in pubs and restaurants is really part of allowing the disease to spread. It needs to stop among young people – as well as older people,” he said at a press conference.
But criticism is mounting over the government’s decision not to forcibly close social spaces. Countries including France, Belgium, and Spain have already closed all pubs, theatres and other venues to try and deal with the outbreak.
On Friday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “concerned” that people were ignoring the government’s advice and said it should impose stricter limits on people’s movements, even if it meant curtailing civil liberties.
“Our liberties and human rights need to be changed, curtailed, infringed – use whatever word you want,” Khan said.
“I am concerned about people not following the advice.
“There are still too many people being witnessed on our streets, in our bars, in our cafés, using the Tube, using our buses.”
Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader and MP for Doncaster, also called on the government to order an immediate shutdown of pubs across the country.
“As well as a comprehensive economic package tomorrow, the government surely now should be ordering the shutdown of cafes, pubs, restaurants etc. There is just no good explanation of why not and it is undermining social distancing,” he said.