22 March 2020 20:33
Thousand of Londoners ignored "social distancing" advice and headed to Richmond Park on Sunday (March 22nd) to enjoy the sunshine. "If you all stay like this, they will close the park. Londoners have been starkly warned "people will die" if they continue to ignore advice to stay at home in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Those in the capital have been warned parks will be shut if people do not follow the government's guidelines on social distancing. This weekend, spring sunshine and the forced closure of pubs, cafes and restaurants has seen London's parks crowded with people.
Police on Sunday prevented traffic from entering Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich parks, with only workers holding a permit allowed to use car parks. Image: Police on Sunday prevented traffic from entering Richmond Park The Royal Parks, which maintains those parks and five of London's other largest open spaces, also posted on Twitter: "After scenes of crowds not #SocialDistancing yesterday we want to urge you again to follow the government's advice and keep a safe distance from others. If people do not follow social distancing guidelines, we will have no choice but to close the parks." Image: The Royal Parks have warned they could shut access completely if Londoners continue to ignore advice Hammersmith and Fulham Council have already shut their parks from 7pm on Sunday "until further notice", while Kew Gardens has been shut "as a precaution to limit the spread of coronavirus". Victoria Park and Columbia Road flower market in east London were also pictured as being full of people on Sunday. London mayor Sadiq Khan on Sunday issued a stark message on Twitter for all those in the capital, telling them "life has changed".
A cyclist said he saw heavy traffic around Box Hill, in the North Downs, on Sunday (March 21) and said it was "like a Bank Holiday". Box Hill, a National Trust site, has closed its café, shop, discovery zone, toilets and shepherd's hut but there is still surrounding countryside to walk in. On Saturday (March 21), the National Trust announced all its gated parks and gardens would shut until further notice. The decision came amid concerns fair weather and Mother's Day could tempt the public onto the roads, making social distancing difficult to enforce. "Having observed the numbers visiting our properties today and I am no longer convinced we can maintain social distancing over Mother's Day when numbers are likely to grow, and beyond.
Meanwhile Richmond Park, in London, also attracted crowds and long queues of traffic. The Royal Parks Police warned on Twitter: "Yesterday (March 21) saw large crowds in @theroyalparks but not much evidence of social distancing. Please follow the advice of the Government and avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces." A Royal Park spokesman told SurreyLive: "The Royal Parks remain open and are vitally important at this time. "We have, therefore, taken the decision to close all our remaining take-away cafés and kiosks with immediate effect as people are not adhering to social distancing guidelines. "We have also made the decision, based on police advice, to start closing our roads to traffic in the outer parks (Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich Parks). The parks will remain open – and provide a vital space for confined families to exercise and get fresh air. Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich Parks will also be closed to traffic. A statement issued today by the Royal Parks said: "The Royal Parks remain open and are vitally important at this time. "We have, therefore, taken the decision to close all our remaining take-away cafes and kiosks with immediate effect as people are not adhering to social distancing guidelines. "We have also made the decision, based on police advice, to start closing our roads to traffic in the outer parks (Richmond, Bushy and Greenwich Parks). If people do not follow social distancing guidelines, we will have no choice but to consider closing the parks." Snowdonia National Park reported the "busiest visitor day in living history" yesterday after unprecedented numbers of people visited the site. Pictures from parks and markets across London posted earlier today (22 March), show crowds of cyclists and people walking within close proximity. Of course, it's OK to go outside and get some fresh air – doing so is incredibly important for our mental health (and still recommended by the Government) – but only when we stay two metres away from people. Meeting up with friends – or walking in close proximity to others – isn't safe just because you're outside, and even if you think you'll be OK if you catch the virus (it affects young people too, by the way) you could be endangering the lives of others by coming into contact with them.