The public should not break social distancing rules to bask in the sun over the bank holiday weekend despite the prospect of lockdown measures being eased on Monday, Downing Street said.
Boris Johnson is expected to use an address to the nation on Sunday night to signal the easing of some of the social distancing measures, possibly from Monday.
But Number 10 said until changes were announced the existing rules must be followed – which means people are only allowed out to parks for exercise, rather than sunbathing.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: ‘There is no change to the advice.
‘We are asking people to stay at home in order to stop the spread of the virus and, by doing so, protect the NHS and save lives.’
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Asked if that meant ‘don’t sunbathe this weekend’, the spokesman said: ‘If you want to put it like that.’
Speculation about the possible measures being considered for Monday has centred on outdoor activities, and the spokesman acknowledged that ‘there is evidence of a much reduced rate of transmission outdoors compared to confined indoor spaces’.
But the spokesman stressed: ‘The social distancing rules remain in place, people have abided by them so far, we are enormously grateful for the sacrifices they have made.
‘Those sacrifices have made a real difference in driving down the rate of transmission and we would ask them to stick with it.’
The coronavirus pandemic also means that mass celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day have also been shelved.
‘Sadly we are not able to mark VE Day and the enormous sacrifices made by that generation in the way that we would have liked,’ the spokesman said.
‘People will, I’m sure, want to mark VE Day and reflect upon it but we would ask them to do so in line with existing social distancing measures.
‘So that does mean remaining two metres apart from people who aren’t in their own households and following the rules.’
Number 10’s comments came as researchers warned that people’s adherence to lockdown restrictions may be beginning to weaken.
Analysis of geographical data by UCL suggested people’s movements had increased since April 19.
The researchers examined in-app mobile data and demographic indicators and found that activity levels – defined as the number of unique mobile devices used per hour in each study area – declined during the first five weeks of lockdown, but have ticked up since then.
Professor James Cheshire, UCL geography and deputy director of the ESRC consumer data research centre, said: ‘Our analysis suggests that people have been adhering to the lockdown rules and taking them very seriously over the first month or so.
‘But by early May we’ve started to see a shift with more activity in recent days.
‘It may be that people have started to increase their movements in anticipation of the government announcement expected this weekend for easing lockdown.’