Number 10 urges social distancing after police chief filmed on crowded bridge

Downing Street has urged people to follow social distancing guidance after the country's most senior police officer was filmed clapping for carers on a crowded Westminster Bridge.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick led dozens of officers in the weekly applause for key workers at 8pm on Thursday.

A video posted to the force's Twitter account shows her standing in front of officers, who are lined up with gaps in front of police vehicles along the bridge near Parliament.

But the gesture drew criticism from some after another video, which has been viewed millions of times online, emerged showing groups of people, near police officers, apparently ignoring social distancing guidance.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We would ask that everyone takes responsibility and adheres to social distancing rules so that we can safely show our appreciation for those who are working so hard to fight coronavirus."

He added: "We would ask that in showing their appreciation for those who are working so hard as carers, they do so in a way which adheres to the social distancing rules."

The Met said the Commissioner was among many other emergency services workers who joined the applause at the bridge over the Thames on Thursday.

A statement said: "Officers, along with other emergency service workers, came together last night on Westminster Bridge to celebrate the work of all key workers.

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A stall holder in a protective face mask in Brixton Market in South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The government's message: 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives' is shown in lights on the rotating display near the top of the BT Tower in the Fitzrovia area of London as the UK continues in lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
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Visitors to Greenwich Park in south east London take their daily exercise and photograph the cherry blossom in the Royal Park as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 16, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
A woman in a protective face mask walks through Brixton Market in South London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
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Mounted police officers speak to people on Primrose Hill, London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A Virgin Atlantic charter flight lands at Heathrow Airport, London, delivering vital medical supplies to UK from Shanghai. Itis one of eight cargo-only flights, in partnership with the Department of Health and the NHS, that Virgin Atlantic is operating during April.
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"A large number of members of the public also gathered to express their gratitude.

"While many people adhered to social distancing guidance, it appears that some did not.

"We regularly remind our officers of the importance of social distancing where practical, and will continue do so."

A guidance document issued to police forces in England last week said not sticking to social distancing advice is not against the law.

It reads: "Government guidance, like going outside once a day for a walk, run, cycle OR staying two metres away from people you don't live with, is not legally enforceable, but it is best practice and can be used to help to encourage people to change their behaviour."

The news comes as it emerged police officers in England have been advised that people who sit on park benches for too long are likely to be breaking coronavirus lockdown rules.

A document sent to forces by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing (CoP) cites advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on what might constitute a reasonable excuse to leave home under sweeping laws which give officers the power to enforce restrictions on movement and issue fines.

It also indicated people should not be working from nearby parks rather than their home but suggested those who needed a "cooling-off" period after rows at home can move between households if they leave for several days. It also said stopping to rest or have a picnic lunch while on a long walk would be considered a reasonable excuse.

Some 3,203 fines were handed out by police in England between March 27 and April 13 to those considered to be flouting the rules.

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