Coronavirus: People who ignore government advice 'selfish'

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Pictures taken over the weekend showed people across parts of the UK visiting parks and open spaces in large numbers

People who have ignored government advice aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic are “very selfish”, says the health secretary.

Matt Hancock said the government was willing to take “more action” if needed to stop the virus from spreading.

Over the weekend, photos emerged showing crowds of people visiting open spaces across many parts of the UK.

Emergency legislation that would grant powers aimed at tackling the pandemic will be debated by MPs later.

The UK’s death toll has reached 281, according to the latest figures – including a person aged 18 with an underlying health condition.

Meanwhile, the NHS in England has announced it has identified – and is contacting – 1.5 million of the most at-risk people who should now stay at home for 12 weeks.

It comes as parents are urged to keep their children at home unless “absolutely necessary”, with schools across the UK now closed to most pupils.

There are now 5,683 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHealth Secretary Matt Hancock: “Incredibly unfair to socialise”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Hancock said he didn’t know why some people were ignoring the government’s advice.

“It’s very selfish,” he told the Today programme. “The NHS is doing everything it can and preparing for the spread of this virus.

“If people go within two metres of others who they don’t live with then they’re helping to spread the virus – and the consequences of that costs lives and it means that, for everyone, this will go on for longer.”

The health secretary said the government advice on social distancing was “really clear” and people should stay two metres apart, staying at home if at all possible.

Asked whether the cabinet would be considering a firmer lockdown when it meets today, he added: “Nothing is off the table. Of course we are looking at what other European countries are doing.”

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the government is now considering closing all non-essential retail stores and introducing fines on people who ignore the current coronavirus advice.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhat is social distancing?

Paul Whiteman, head of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said schools are struggling with staff numbers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“My appeal to the families of key workers is: this is not business as usual. Keep your family at home if at all possible,” he said.

It comes as the government says it is setting up “hubs” around the country to arrange deliveries of groceries and medicines to the people in the most at-risk group.

These include people with specific cancers, severe respiratory conditions and people who have received organ transplants.

Councils, pharmacists and members of the Armed Forces will help this work and there will be opportunities for members of the public to volunteer.

Under the emergency legislation to be discussed by MPs, airports could shut and police would be able to force people with virus symptoms to isolate.

The proposals – set out last week – also includes enabling recently retired NHS staff to return to work without any negative impact on their pensions, fast-tracking funeral arrangements, and allowing more court hearings to take place by phone or video.

The powers, which would be time-limited for two years, are expected to be approved by MPs.

Speaking on Sunday at Downing Street’s daily news conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everyone had to act “responsibly” and practise social distancing.

“If we can’t do that then, yup, I’m afraid we’re going to have to bring forward tougher measures.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSaturday was the “busiest ever visitor day in living memory” in Snowdonia, officials say

And on Sunday evening, the government issued a further statement, clarifying its advice that “people should avoid travelling unless it is essential”.

Essential travel, the Department for Health and Social Care said, “does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays”.

In other key developments: