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Coronavirus: ‘Lives depend’ on social distancing, drinkers told as pubs prepare for sunny weekend

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Police and councils have warned crowded scenes outside bars “cannot happen again” as sunny weather expected on the first full weekend since pubs reopened fuels fears drinkers could spread coronavirus.

Authorities are keen to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s scenes in London’s Soho, where pub-goers were pictured failing to socially distance properly.

London mayor Sadiq Khan told people to “stay safe” and wear a face mask when “out and about” because “lives depend on it”.

Many of those pictured in Soho’s Old Compton Street last weekend were not wearing face coverings.

One onlooker estimated there were between two and three thousand people crammed into the street, meaning social distancing was impossible.

Westminster City Council said venues would be served clear reminders of their responsibilities and have been asked to implement a “no seat, no service” policy.

Councillor Matthew Green, cabinet member for business and planning, warned last week’s scenes “cannot happen again”.

He said: “Last weekend we saw a vast reopening of London’s most famous hospitality areas, with a large majority showing a safe and successful example of the new normal for the city’s bars, cafes, and restaurants.

“At the same time, we saw isolated instances of crowding in some of our busier areas.

“This is something that cannot happen again as we must ensure the safety of the public as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Images emerged on Friday showing some streets in Westminster, including Old Compton Street, completely transformed into pedestrian-only areas with tables and chairs in the middle of the road.

Greater Manchester Police Superintendent Chris Hill said last weekend ran smoothly, with just three premises voluntarily closing early following safety advice from officers and the local authority.

He said: “As we approach another weekend, one that promises slightly sunnier weather, I want to remind the public of the importance of continuing to social distance and respect others – the guidelines and restrictions still in place are paramount to preventing a second spike and not undoing the hard work done so far by everyone to minimise the spread of the virus.

“Our dedicated policing operation will continue running into this weekend, with our officers engaging with members of the public to explain and encourage the following of the guidelines, with enforcement as a last resort.”

Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said this weekend will likely see even more venues opening their doors.

She added: “I also expect the industry to be under more pressure this weekend – a combination of better forecasted weather and great consumer confidence means we can safely anticipate more customers and therefore more pressures to maintain those safe standards.

“I want to appeal to the sector to keep its standards high. To the public, please stay local and boost nearby businesses, and please continue to respect the safety measures that are in place.”

Meanwhile, Merseyside Police expressed concern ahead of the weekend, writing on Twitter: “It’s concerning to see a rise in Covid-19 cases in South Liverpool – stay safe this weekend and remember to follow public health guidelines.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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