IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Police tell sunbathers to stay indoors this Easter

Row over whether Highbury Fields visitors have kept two metres apart

10 April, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Ch Supt Raj Kohli

THE borough’s police commander has urged people to spend Easter indoors as officers try to stop groups gathering in parks and meeting friends.

Pictures of sunbathers in Highbury Fields were widely shared on social media over the weekend, prompting outrage from those who felt social distancing rules and the government’s lockdown order were being ignored.

The government is due to review its stay at home order next week but has already indicated that the same restrictions on public movement, aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, will stay in place.

This means people are only supposed to leave their homes for essential shopping, to take aid to others, one form of exercise or travel to work, if that work cannot be done at home.

Speaking to the Tribune, Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, the borough’s highest ranked officer, said he was worried ­people might be itching to break the rules over ­Easter, traditionally a time for family get-togethers. Warm weather is expected, possibly increasing the temptation.

“People should not be outside sunbathing,” he said.

“All we’re asking for is that people stay indoors for a few weeks. It’s really important that you stick to the guidelines. This long weekend will be unlike any l have ever policed so please don’t go out for a picnic, please don’t go out just to meet your friends.”

Highbury Fields

Highbury Fields

Ch Supt Kohli added: “The parks and open spaces are there for people to exercise, not to picnic and sunbathe. Those activities are really not essential. A vast bulk of people are pragmatically following the guidelines.

“Even on Saturday most, if not almost all, the people we spoke to did understand and did move on. The trouble is, behind them came other people and we had to go and have the same conversation again.”

Some people said they could not see why lying on the grass away from everybody else, or with people they live with, was dangerous.

“The guidelines are straightforward and whether people agree with the guidelines is not the point,” said Ch Supt Kohli.

“The rules were put in place to stop our NHS from falling over and I think people forget that. The Prime Minister is unwell and that might help some people to think more closely about whether what they are doing is essential.

“We’ll do what we’ve always been doing which is engaging people and persuading them not to breach the directions.”

Islington Council leader Richard Watts has already warned that parks will have to close if they get too busy. Everybody is asked to stay at least two metres from others, not to play group sports and to wash their hands when they return home in a bid to reduce the number of infections.

To keep people moving, Duncan Terrace, Colebrooke Row, Asteys Row and New River Walk will now be set up with new one-way entry systems for crowd control.

A council statement said: “With the exception of families living in the same house, gatherings of more than two people in parks have been banned.”

It added: “Our parks patrol teams and the police will be enforcing this over the Easter weekend.”

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