Pub-goers flooded into the streets of London immediately after 10pm on Thursday night after pubs and restaurants had to close their doors under the new coronavirus measures aimed at curbing the spread of infection.
Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions on Tuesday, imposing shorter opening hours for pubs, cafes and restaurants in England.
A small police presence was seen on pedestrianised streets in Soho, central London, but no problems were reported.
According to the Metropolitan Police, Commissioner Cressida Dick was patrolling the streets of Shoreditch with local officers “who were engaging with members of the public, to remind them of their responsibility to keep themselves and others safe to minimise the spread”.
People in London “should expect to see police officers” stepping up its enforcement of coronavirus regulations in response to the tightened restrictions and rising rates of infection.
“Working with local authorities and other partners, the focus will be on public spaces with high footfall – where people are most likely to come into contact with each other and therefore the risk of transmission is increased,” added the force.
But many people on social media ridiculed the prime minister’s new rule, pointing to the crowded streets and packed public transport after closing time as would-be late night drinkers made their way home or elsewhere.
“Boris Johnson didn’t really think that one through did he? 10pm pub curfew = mass street congestion and transport overload,” commented one person on Twitter.
Others pointed out that drinkers were seen buying more alcohol from off licenses and bringing groups of people home to continue in their mid-week revelry.
(10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months) pic.twitter.com/7oWKH5APNG— Kirsty Lewis (@kirstylewis6) September 24, 2020
One person said: “Night one of the 10pm curfew and I’m being kept awake by my neighbours who have clearly decided to bring the pub back to theirs for an afters. Can’t wait for six months of this. Thanks Bozza.”
In England, gatherings of more than six people are banned indoors and outdoors.
Teams of “city inspectors” were spotted combing through establishments in Soho to check for “illegal speakeasies” remaining open after the 10pm curfew.
The rules differ in Wales, where drinkers are given an additional 20 minutes to finish their drinks after last orders at 10pm, and licensed premises must close by 10.20pm.