Coronavirus: Police warning over anti-lockdown 'mass gatherings' planned in major UK cities

Police officers patrol in the Meadows in Edinburgh as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
A police officer enforces lockdown restrictions in Edinburgh. (PA Images)

Police forces across the country have warned against attending “mass gathering” events protesting the coronavirus lockdown.

Various digital posters distributed on social media have invited people to “join the freedom movement” and say “no to the coronavirus bill” and “no to mandatory vaccinations”j on Saturday.

Locations across the country have been chosen, some in city parks. No other details are given about who is organising the events, but the Mail has reported at least eight were said to be set up by a group called “UK Freedom Movement”.

Police forces have reiterated the government’s instructions to leave the home as little as possible and not gather in groups of more than two people from different households.

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London, Hampshire, Nottingham and Glasgow are among the locations mentioned on the virtual leaflets.

South Yorkshire Police said it was aware of two events in Sheffield and added: “We would like to urge people not to attend these gatherings.

“Despite the slight easing of restrictions, the government is clear that gatherings of three or more people who are not members of the same household remain against the law.

“It’s important people continue to adhere to these restrictions in order to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We are closely monitoring plans in the lead up to the event and our officers will be patrolling the parks across the weekend. Our officers do have the power to disperse gatherings should they need to.”

A Met Police spokesperson said a “proportionate policing plan” is in place for a planned event it was aware of.

Anti-lockdown protests have already taken place, with 40 to 50 people gathering by Westminster Bridge on 9 May. Police broke the demonstration up.

The lockdown was implemented in March after fears about the coronavirus spreading too quickly, and potentially overwhelming hospitals with cases, which led the government to impose restrictions on movement.

Non-essential businesses were told to close and people were only allowed to leave the home for essential reasons.

Some restrictions have been eased slightly as of Wednesday, with workers asked to go back to their jobs if they can’t do them from home.

Social distancing remains in place, with a two-metre gap to be maintained with people not in your household.

The government wants to begin resuming some classes in schools from 1 June, if possible, along with non-essential shops.

From July, England could see restaurants and bars reopening, too. The gradual relaxation, combined with social distancing, is designed to allow for as close a return to normality as possible without the virus spreading rapidly again.

The government’s latest figures show 33,614 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19, and 233,151 cases have been confirmed.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that more than 298,000 people have died globally, with 4.3 million reported cases and 1.5 million recoveries.

Hampshire Constabulary said: “We are aware of reports advertising a number of mass gatherings being organised at various locations nationally and in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight this coming weekend.

“We are really grateful to those who have contacted us with their concerns and we are now reviewing this information and the reports we have received from the public.

“We will continue to assess the information we have in the coming days to ensure that we are able to respond to any unlawful activity and enforce the law fairly and appropriately.”

Screen grab of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Boris Johnson has eased England's lockdown restrictions slightly, but gatherings of more than two people who don't live with each other are banned. (PA Images)

Lockdown rules differ in Scotland, where the devolved administration has stuck to its stay at home message. Anti-lockdown gatherings are reportedly planned for places in Scotland and Wales.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “We have been made aware of these leaflets and would strongly urge people not to take part.

“The Scottish government's guidance is clear – people should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, for exercise, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done at home.

“Public gatherings of more than two people, with limited exceptions, are prohibited.”

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