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Viral images of people flouting COVID lockdown rules 'not the reality', insists Whitty

George Martin
·3-min read
Police patrol as revellers enjoy a night out in the centre of Liverpool, north west England on October 10, 2020 ahead of new measures set to be introduced in the northwest next week to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline the new regime on Monday as rates of Covid 19 infection surge particularly in the north, worsening a national death toll of more than 42,000 which is already the worst in Europe. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP) (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)
Police in Liverpool dealing with revellers partying in the streets before Liverpool entered Tier 3 lockdown. (Getty)

The vast majority of people are following the lockdown rules despite images showing some people flouting them, Professor Chris Whitty has said.

Speaking to the Science and Technology Committee, England’s chief medical officer told MPs on Tuesday that photos depicting widespread breaking of the laws were “not the reality on the ground”.

“The great majority of people both intend to stick to the rules and do stick to the rules to a remarkable degree,” he said.

“Were that not the case, we would be in a massively worse place than we are at the moment.

Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty walks through Westminster in London on October 31, 2020. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened his cabinet on October 31 to decide whether to impose a new lockdown across England within days, following warnings his localised restrictions strategy has failed to curb soaring coronavirus rates. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Professor Chris Whitty said the majority of people are following the rules. (Getty)
A police presence in Nottingham after pubs and bars close, as the city will move into the Tier 3 alert level from 0001 on Friday. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police in Nottingham enforcing coronavirus restrictions ahead of the Tier 3 lockdown in the city. (Getty)

“My expectation is R would have shot right up if people had not massively reduced the number of people they have contact with, really stuck to all the things we need to do in terms of individual actions they can take – hands, face, space – and done a huge amount in businesses to try and make them COVID secure.

“Without that, we would be in a very, very difficult place compared to where we are now.”

It comes after police have been forced to break up large-scale gatherings across England in recent weeks where revellers were in breach of social distancing rules.

Read more: Ending England's lockdown in December is realistic, says medical chief

Huge crowds gathered in the centre of Liverpool last month the day before the city moved into Tier 3 lockdown restrictions.

Liverpool mayor said the revellers "shame our city" at a time when the region was recording one of the hospital admission rates in the UK.

Similar scenes were witnessed in Nottingham on the eve of its own Tier 3 lockdown last week, as police there dealt with scores of drunken revellers.

Watch: Chris Whitty tells MPs hospital admissions have passed first wave peak

And on Saturday night, officers in the South West were forced to break up an illegal rave in Yate, near Bristol.

Video clips and photos from the Halloween party showed revellers crammed into a warehouse without social distancing.

Despite the recent breaches, Whitty remained positive that the second lockdown could work and argued that the majority of people would follow the rules.

“If people adhere in the way that I expect they will, it'll reduce R below 1, in my view, in the great majority or all of the country,” he added.

“I wouldn't want to imply that suddenly that means that COVID is over as a problem.

“This is a long haul.”

He added: “We need to see this through winter – this doesn't mean we need to stay in these measures through winter, but we will need to be doing things that keep the rates down.”

When asked if the restrictions would be lifted on 2 December, Whitty said: “The decision as to whether to lift restrictions on 2 December is rightly a decision for ministers and Parliament.

“I think that the aim of this is to get the rates down far enough that it's a realistic possibility to move into a different state of state of play at that point in time.”

Watch: Can you catch coronavirus twice?

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