Despite Sunday’s warm temperatures, fewer people visited the parks than usual, but scenes at Brockwell Park in south London on Saturday – where 3,000 people gathered – were widely condemned and led to the temporary closure of the park.
Police said they also had to move more than 100 people from Primrose Hill to London after their discovery with “full picnics or blankets, sunbathing“.
Hancock said on Sunday morning that he could be forced to act before later saying that any change would not be immediate.
He told the BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think this example of exercise is really important, because we have said, because of the positive benefits for your physical and mental health, that it is okay to do exercise alone or with members of your own household.
“But if the result is that too many people go out and flout the other rules because they say, ‘Well, if I can exercise, it’s good for me to do other things’, then I fear that we will have to take action. “
But then he clarified his position by saying, “We can’t rule out new steps, but I don’t want anyone to think that changes to the social distancing rules are imminent, because the vast majority follow the rules. “
The temporary closure of Brockwell Park and images of bathers from across the country sparked a debate over the use of the parks by people who did not have accessible outdoor space during the lockdown of Covid-19.
Hancock was supported by newly elected Labor Party leader Keir Starmer, who said his party would support either a ban on outdoor exercise or non-essential work if it were necessary to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“We have to take all the necessary measures,” said Starmer, who said that social distancing was difficult for people who did not have a garden to exercise, but insisted “we have to get through this” .
Angela Rayner, who was elected deputy head of the labor movement, said on Sunday in Sophy Ridge: “It’s fine for people who have big houses and huge gardens in the back to say it, but if you’re stuck in inadequate housing, you ‘I have no garden, nowhere to go, and you are on top of each other, people should be social distancing, but also be reasonable and proportionate about it. “
The Royal Parks – the charity that runs several parks in London, including Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park and Hyde Park, which were all busy this weekend – said its spaces would remain open for the time being.
“Our only priority right now is to keep the parks open and safe for as long as possible, and we are doing everything we can to make that happen,” said a spokesperson. The charity has already banned cycling in Richmond Park due to congestion and closed all cafes, food kiosks and playgrounds at its sites.
Birmingham officials, who have recorded the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases of any local authority outside London, encouraged residents to practicesocial distancing while maintaining its open parks.