Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who isolates himself in Downing Street as he battles the disease, leads a major public relations effort to prevent officials fearful of thousands of people heading out to take advantage hot weekend weather in disregard of locking.
Electronic road signs on highways and in cities and towns will display messages urging people to stay away from beaches and parks to prevent the spread of the virus from person to person.
Speaking on 10 Downing Street, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has signaled a hardening of attitude in government saying that the current lockdown directives are “not a request, but an instruction” to stay at home.
“However, the British public follows the new rules to a very large extent and the police largely control them with their normal attitude and approach based on consent. “
Mr. Hancock begged people not to go out to enjoy the good weather. “We are ready for a hot weekend in some parts of the country, but the disease continues to spread,” he said.
“We absolutely cannot afford to relax the social distancing measures that we have put in place; we cannot relax our discipline now – if we do, people will die. “
The coronavirus law passed last month allows ministers to declare a “public health response period” during which officials can ban any event or gathering or close or restrict access to all premises.
A government source said that “the big parks” could be closed in the coming weeks if the British defied the warnings. “Closing public spaces is certainly an option,” said a source.
“It is certainly in the game.”
Parks in parts of London have already been closed by local councils after criticizing large numbers of tourists visiting beaches and beauty spots.
Mr. Johnson would resist any tightening of the lockdown rules. A review of the current restrictions on social distancing is planned after the Easter weekend.
Number 10 made it clear that there was no immediate threat of closure of public spaces in the short term. A source said, “We are not in this space yet. The message is simple: if you go out this weekend, your actions could ultimately lead to someone’s death. “
In a message posted on Twitter, Johnson said he knew people were getting a little “crazy” in the lockup “especially if they have kids in the household” and that he wanted to go out to take advantage of the time.
He added, “There may be just a temptation to go out, go out and start breaking the rules. And I just urge you not to do it. Please stick to the guidelines now. “
“We have given the police and other competent authorities the power to enforce the measures if necessary, including through fines.”
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, who has overall responsibility for the Metropolitan Police, said: “I worry about complacency, I worry about fatigue, I worry about people who think it is OK now to go out and move.
“I saw the weather forecast and this weekend looks like better weather not only in London but across the country.
“Better weather is no reason or excuse not to follow the rules – these rules are not optional, this is not advice, these rules are rules, they are instructions and we must follow them.
“It is really very important that people do not use the good weather to go to the parks, have picnics, have barbecues. “