This weekend’s relaxing of lockdown rules have led to another round of apocalyptic warnings about nationwide chaos, with police leave cancelled in cities like Manchester and in Leicestershire, where there is a local lockdown in place, a warning to expect “more police than New Year’s Eve” on patrol.
On Sunday, news reports and social media, however, focused largely on scenes of a crowded Old Compton Street in Soho in central London, although the Metropolitan Police said “a small number” of premises closed early due to crowding, but there were “no significant issues” in the capital. Elsewhere there was also reportedly “no significant incidents” in Bristol, slow trade in pubs in Wiltshire, “no incidents of note” in Manchester and cautious optimism in Suffolk. Leicestershire Police Chief Constable Simon Cole said there was “huge compliance” within the lockdown boundary as people adhered to guidance by staying at home on Saturday. The Police Federation insisted, however, that it is “crystal clear” that drunk people are unable to socially distance.
Police were, nevertheless, continuing to use dispersal powers to shut down illegal raves, in Birmingham and in Teeside, whilst the Metropolitan Police shut down and dispersed parties in two parks in Hackney.
An increasing number of MPs are supporting the call by Big Brother Watch for a review of every lockdown fine issued in England and Wales amid concerns about “discriminatory” enforcement.
Commenting on a 70% increase in the use of stop and search powers in Camden in north London during the lockdown – 40% of which have been targeted at Black people who make up only 8% of the borough’s population – Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of StopWatch, said, “at a time when police should’ve been adopting a public health approach they chose to target young black males and put them in danger by engaging with them with no PPE despite them being from communities disproportionately affected by Covid-19.”
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has been reported to police for allegedly breaking coronavirus quarantine rules, by going to a pub less than a fortnight after returning from a campaign rally for President Trump in Oklahoma. People travelling from the US are required to quarantine for a period of 14 days from the moment they arrive.
Less than 15 hours before the opening of the pubs, the government finally published the new lockdown regulation – as usual without parliamentary scrutiny. Even more complicated than before because of the many exceptions, barrister Adam Wagner made an effort to review them. The new Regulation 5 bans gatherings of more than 30 people, inside private dwellings and outside. However, outdoor events for more than 30 people are allowed as long as its done safely: for the first time, safety requirements are included about social distancing.
Pubs can now open under Regulation 4, while Schedule 2 lists the last remaining premises which must remain shut. Playgrounds can now open, including indoor skating rings, fitness and dance studios, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
Worryingly, the Secretary of State for Public Health – Matt Hancock presently – gets the power to close any public outdoor place, or a category of public places, by direction (so basically a public edict) – no need to do this through regulations.
The people of Leicester have their own regulations which are much stricter, the text was published four days after the lockdown came into force. The 15 June regulations applying to whole of England until the current ease seem to have been replicated for a certain set of postcodes in the area. See Wagner’s thread and comments for more detail on the complications brought by this system.
In April and May, the issue of oppressive policing of access to parks and public spaces was a recurring theme in this diary. On 3 July, the think-tank Resolution Foundation published “Lockdown living: Housing quality across the generations”, which reports on inequalities in housing stock and in neighbourhoods. It found that younger age groups are more likely to live in a damp home, have no garden or to live in a derelict or congested neighbourhood than older generations. Black, Asian and ethnic minority children in England are also more than twice as likely as white children to live in a home with no garden.