Thousands of Britons defied the two metre social distancing guidelines on Thursday as sun seekers packed together on beaches across the UK during the hottest day of the year. On the south coast, Tobias Ellwood Conservative MP for Bournemouth East said up to half a million people had descended on Dorset as temperatures hit 33C.
The mass gatherings forced Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council to declare a major incident after services were overstretched.
The council said extra police patrols had to be brought in following the “irresponsible” behaviour of crowds.
In the surrounding areas, roads were gridlocked after many parked their vehicles wherever they could – blocking routs for emergency services passing through.
Following the chaotic scenes, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the Government had the authority to close beaches if people continued to ignore the guidance.
Mr Hancock stated he did not want to do so but insisted he would be left with no choice if people could not enjoy the weather responsibly.
Speaking to TalkRADIO, Mr Hancock said: “We do have that power.
“I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown and I want everybody to enjoy the sunshine.
“But the key is to do it with respect for the rules – stay with your household, stay a good distance from other households.”
The Met Office confirmed mercury had soared to 33.4C (92.12F) at Heathrow Airport in west London.
Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty also responded to the pictures from the south coast and reiterated coronavirus had not gone way and warned there could be a second spike in infections.
Professor Whitty wrote on Twitter: “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.”
As the sun went down across Britain, large gatherings continued into the night on Merseyside after Liverpool secured their first ever Premier League title.
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“It’s because of the public’s hard work that we’ve been able to bring the virus under control.
“If the rules don’t continue to be followed and the virus starts to spread exponentially again then we will look at having to reverse some of the easements that we have put in place.
“I don’t think anyone in the British public would want that to happen.”