'Doomed to repeat mistakes?' Public health expert's warning after Hancock threatens beach closures

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Crowds gather on the beach in Bournemouth as the UK experience a heat wave, in Bournemouth, England, Thursday, June 25, 2020. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

A public health expert says it would “be too late” to reimpose lockdown if there was a spike in coronavirus cases, after the government said it could close down public spaces if restrictions are continually flouted.

On Friday, the health secretary threatened to close beaches and other public areas if people ignore social distancing measures, after thousands flocked to the coast on the hottest day of the year.

The warning comes after people descended on beaches such as Brighton and Bournemouth as temperatures soared to as high as 33.4C in parts of the country - while thousands of Liverpool fans also flocked to Anfield on Thursday night to celebrate the club winning the Premier League.

Matt Hancock told TalkRadio he was “reluctant” to go down the route of shutting public spaces as “people have had a pretty tough lockdown” - but added that if there was a spike in coronavirus cases “then we will take action”.

Following the warning, Devi Sridhar - a professor of global health at Edinburgh University - criticised the response, saying it would be “very hard” to reverse a second COVID-19 spike without “drastic lockdown”.

Sridhar tweeted: “By the time you see a spike in cases, very hard to reverse it without drastic lockdown. By the time you have clear evidence of exponential growth, it’s too late.

“Doomed to repeat mistakes? Don’t need a crystal ball- just look around world & at past few months.”

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty later urged people to follow social distancing rules in the hot weather or risk causing a spike in coronavirus.

He tweeted: “Covid-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation.

“If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again.

“Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.”

Matt Hancock said the government has the power to shut down public spaces if social distancing guidelines are not followed by the public. (AP)

International newspapers have also reacted to images of Brits flocking to parks and beaches, with some calling it ‘shocking’.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson confirmed pubs, restaurants, hotels, cinemas and hairdressers can reopen from 4 July providing they are “COVID-secure”. He also announced a cut in social distancing from two metres to “one metre plus”.

So far, the UK has recorded more than 54,000 virus fatalities – the third highest COVID-19 death toll in the world.

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