‘Crystal clear’ drinkers will not adhere to social distancing rules

Alexander Britton and Edd Dracott, PA

Drunk people are unable to properly socially distance, the chairman of the Police Federation has said as pubs reopened in England for the first time since lockdown.

John Apter said it was “crystal clear” revellers would not adhere to the one metre plus rule as restrictions were eased on Saturday.

Professor Chris Whitty said the pandemic “is a long way from gone” and urged the public to follow social-distancing rules as pubs and restaurants reopened.

But images from London’s Soho showed packed streets into the early hours of Sunday.

Mr Apter, who was on shift in Southampton where he dealt with “naked men, happy drunks, angry drunks, fights and more angry drunks”, said: “What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance.

“It was a busy night but the shift managed to cope. I know other areas have had issues with officers being assaulted.”

Rafal Liszewski, a store manager at Clonezone on Soho’s Old Compton Street, described crowds in the area on Saturday night as “out of control”.

“Around 1pm crowds started to arrive… quickly everything got out of control and by 8-9 pm it was a proper street party with people dancing and drinking,” the 36-year-old told the PA news agency.

“Barely anyone was wearing masks and nobody respected social distancing… to be honest with that many people on one street it was physically impossible.”

Mr Liszewski, who is originally from Poland but now lives in Finchley, estimated there was between two and three thousand people on Old Compton Street.

Marc Foley-Comer said the bars he went to in Soho on Saturday night had “excellent safety measures” and social distancing in place, but the scenes outside resembled London’s Pride celebrations.

“It was packed… it was like it was Pride – and very chaotic and people were pretty drunk but the police were en-force and doing a good job,” he told PA.

“We decided to leave as it was too busy and too risky still… there was no social distancing.”

There was disorder in north Nottinghamshire too, where four people were arrested and several pubs decided to close after alcohol related anti-social behaviour.

A major easing of lockdown measures in England saw pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas opening their doors again under modified social distancing regulations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Government experts urged people to stick to the rules to avoid creating a second wave of coronavirus.

Speaking on Friday, Prof Whitty said: “None of us believe, and I’m sure nobody watching this believes, this is a risk-free next step. It is absolutely not, that is why we have to be really serious about it.

“There’s no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together, that’s a great thing to do socially but it’s also a great thing from the virus’s point of view.

“Therefore, we do have to have a really clear and really disciplined approach to try and maintain social distancing whilst also enjoying pubs.”