Coronavirus: People refusing to leave parks during lockdown 'can be removed by force'

Members of the public in Primrose Hill in London on Sunday. (Getty Images)

People who refuse to leave parks during the current coronavirus restrictions will be forced to do so by police, Britain’s most senior officer has said.

Dame Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police commissioner, said breaking the government’s rules on gatherings can result in enforcement.

Her comments came after a number of cases of people flouting social distancing advice at the weekend.

It led health secretary Matt Hancock to warn that exercise could be banned if people continued to ignore restrictions, although the government said later it had no plans to tighten the rules.

Government guidelines say the public can exercise outside, but only on their own or with other members of their household.

Brockwell Park in south-east London was closed for the day on Sunday after 3,000 people, many sunbathing or in large groups, visited the previous day.

Dame Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said officers will force people from public areas if necessary. (Getty Images)

Police also moved more than 100 people on in north-west London's Primrose Hill on Saturday.

Dame Cressida said on Tuesday: “The new restrictions are obviously difficult for some members of the public to get used to,” she said.

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“It’s extremely important that we all do try to comply with them and we in the police of course have our part to play.

“We will always try to advise people to explain, to encourage people to comply and if necessary to move on, not to stop and sunbathe – that’s not exercising or travelling to work or shopping.

“If we have to we will be very firm in that, if somebody completely refuses – but this is an absolute last resort – it will result in enforcement.

“I think the vast majority of the public expect us to do that but the tradition of the Met is always to start by advising people.”

She declined to comment on whether tighter restrictions were needed, but said: “The Met will stand by and be ready to assist whichever direction they go in whenever that is.”

Dame Cressida said there have been instances where people have coughed and spat at others, including police officers, while claiming they have “corona”.

She said: “It’s completely unacceptable, we will deal with it very firmly.

“Some people have been convicted and received very strong sentences for spitting or coughing at a police officer.”

She did not reveal how many officers were off sick or self-isolating, but insisted the MetPolice is providing a good service for Londoners.

She added: “Some of our demands have gone down and of course we have some other new demands, but we are a strong and resilient organisation.”

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