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UK facing even tougher lockdown with masks in more places and limits on exercise

Composite image of members of the public gathering during lockdown and not wearing masks
The Prime Minister is said to be considering stricter Covid measures (Picture: North News/ Backgrid/ Rex)

Boris Johnson is considering the introduction of tighter Covid restrictions amid lockdown, it has been reported.

The Prime Minister is believed to have spoken with senior ministers on Sunday about whether or not the current lockdown rules are working to reduce the spread of the virus. A further 54,940 cases were confirmed on Sunday, while deaths rose by 563.

It’s thought the government is now considering the scrapping of an exemption which allows people to meet up with one other person outside their household to exercise in a public space.

A source told the Daily Telegraph that the exemption was currently being misused as ‘an excuse for people to go for a coffee in the park with their friends’. They added: ‘It may be we tighten up on things like that.’

There are also concerns about infections spreading within supermarkets, which have remained open under every lockdown. Ministers are likely to tell the chains to get tougher on customers social distancing and wearing face masks inside the stores, the Times reported.

Face coverings may also be introduced in busy outdoor areas, such as shop queues, or enclosed work spaces, such as offices, it was also claimed.

Members of the public gather on Primrose Hill to enjoy the sunshine during the national lockdown
Ministers are concerned the current restrictions aren’t enough (Picture: Backgrid)
Friends gather on Primrose Hill to enjoy the sunshine during the national lockdown
The new mutated strain of the virus is highly contagious (Picture: Backgrid)

Cabinet minister Michael Gove is said to have also chaired a separate emergency committee over the weekend which looked at initiatives to boost compliance.

Scientists are already calling for the government to tighten Covid rules by closing nurseries and places of worship, and making masks mandatory in busy outdoor areas, stating that a mutant strain of the virus is ‘out of control’.

Minister for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the government didn’t want to increase restrictions – but noted that there was concern over the virus spreading in supermarkets.

He said: ‘We don’t want to use tougher measures, the lockdown is tough, schools are shut, but it is important to remember this virus loves social interactions.

Crowds of people in a North London park walk during the current UK lockdown
People could be asked to wear masks in busy outdoor areas (Picture: Backgrid)

‘We’re reviewing all the restrictions, but these are pretty tough at the moment. I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system, and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket.

‘I’m worried about some of the pictures I’ve seen of social interactions in parks, if you have to exercise you can go out for exercise only.’

His words come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock emphasised that the majority of people were continuing to follow lockdown rules – but warned that even the smallest ‘flexibility’ could cause someone to pass the infection on.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘The challenge here is that every flexibility can be fatal. You might look at the rules and think to yourself, well it doesn’t matter too much if I just do this or I just do that. These rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they are the limit of what people should be doing.’

Crowds of people gather on the beach with their dogs
Matt Hancock has warned every ‘flexibility’ can be fatal (Picture: North News & Pictures)

He added: ”This virus is so contagious, it then passes on and as we have seen, it is deadly, and there are people dying every day, and the NHS has got this enormous pressure on it, like it’s never seen before.’

Hancock also defended the police for continuing to strictly enforce coronavirus restrictions, after they faced some criticism for fining two women £200 each after they met for a walk together in Derbyshire.

Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore, both 27, had driven five miles in separate cars so that they could meet at Foremark Reservoir on Wednesday. They were then stopped by police, and were told that their cups of peppermint tea from Starbucks were classed as a ‘picnic’.

Derbyshire Police later defended the decision to fine them by saying driving for exercise is ‘not in the spirit’ of restrictions. Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa added today: ‘In the main, when police are engaging with the public, the public are very compliant and are following guidance.

‘If you think of the hundreds and thousands of calls to police on Covid-19, the number of fixed penalty notices given out are small.’

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