Coronavirus: Police warn against clapping for NHS on Westminster Bridge after crowds broke distancing rules

·News Reporter
·3-min read
LONDON,ENGLAND  - APRIL 23: Members of the public and Emergency Services gather on Westminster Bridge on April 23, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Following the success of  the "Clap for Our Carers" campaign, members of the public are being encouraged to applaud NHS staff and other key workers from their homes at 8pm every Thursday. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has infected over 2.5 million people across the world, claiming at least 18,738 lives in the U.K. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
Police will warn anyone out unnecessarily for the weekly clap for carers on Westminster Bridge to go home. (Getty Images)

The Met has told people not to gather on Westminster Bridge to clap for carers after crowds gathered and broke social distancing measures in the last two demonstrations.

People across the country have gathered on Thursday evenings to applaud NHS staff and key workers for their efforts in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

But the last two weeks have seen crowds gathering at the bridge to join emergency services in applause despite lockdown restrictions, which has drawn criticism.

Social distancing was not observed by all, the Met had previously said, and the government has said you should only leave your house where necessary, such as for exercise or essential shopping.

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Now, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist, who is running the force’s response to the pandemic, has warned that anyone who is out for any other reason will be told to go home ahead of this week’s clap for carers.

He said: “As this event has gained prominence it is understandable that major landmarks, including Westminster Bridge in central London, have become focal points for those who wish to applaud.

“However, it is not acceptable for people to disregard the safety of themselves and others.

“Officers will be present tonight to engage, explain and encourage them to observe social distancing rules.

“Members of the public who are not away from their homes for one of the reasons outlined in the government’s emergency legislation should expect to be asked to return home.

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“In keeping with our approach to these rules throughout the lockdown, officers will only enforce this legislation as a last resort.”

After the large crowds were seen gathered at the bridge for previous clap for carers, a Met spokesperson said while many people observed social distancing, some did not, and officers were regularly reminded of its importance.

Despite strong criticism of the event on social media, big crowds were seen watching on near the bridge in large numbers, gathered close together.

A Twitter user pointed out the irony of gathering in public to applaud NHS workers given the social distancing and lockdown measures are designed to slow the spread of coronavirus and prevent hospitals being overwhelmed with patients.

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Deputy assistant commissioner Twist said: “Like millions of people across the UK, thousands of MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) officers and staff are joining the clap for carers tribute every week.

“Tonight will be no different as they take a few moments out of their duties, wherever they are, to mark the work of our remarkable NHS.

“We have repeatedly reminded colleagues that they must maintain an appropriate social distance at all times where operationally possible. But to do this they also need the support and assistance of the public.”

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