THE UK Government is prepared to tighten the lockdown if people keep flouting the rules, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The Tory minister said this could include removing exercise from the list of reasonable excuses for leaving the house.

His comments came after another weekend of anger on social media as people posted pictures of busy parks and beaches.

Lambeth Council in south London closed Brockwell Park yesterday after more than 3000 people sunbathed there on Saturday.

If the UK Government were to impose tougher measures, the Scottish Government would almost certainly follow suit.

That could mean measures introduced similar to those in Italy or France where all non-essential movement is banned, and permission is required to travel for work, health or “other necessities” like groceries.

Hancock told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: “Sunbathing is against the rules that have been set out for important public health reasons. I wish I didn’t have to say this but I do because the whole country wants to come through this crisis.”

He warned those who are flouting the guidance: “You are putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way.”

He then told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the Government may need to take action.

“I think this example of exercise is a really important one, because we’ve said because of the positive benefits to your physical and your mental health that it’s OK to exercise on your own or with members of your own household,” he said.

“But if the result of that is that too many people go out and flout the other rules because they say, ‘Well, if I can exercise then it’s fine for me to do other things’ then I’m afraid we will have to take action.

“So my message is really clear. If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home then you’ve got to follow the rules, and the vast majority of people are following the rules.”

The Tory was backed by new Labour leader Keir Starmer. He said his party would support “whatever steps are necessary”.

“Social distancing, staying indoors, is really difficult for people. It’s particularly difficult if you don’t have a garden, if you’re in a flat.

“And I know there are a lot of people in overcrowded accommodation. But we’ve got to get through this,” Starmer said.

The warning of further restrictions came as 621 patients across the UK were confirmed to have died from coronavirus on Saturday, taking the total number of fatalities to 4934.

As of 9am yesterday, a total of 195,524 people had been tested for Covid-19, 47,806 positive.

During his interview with Marr, the Health Secretary was asked about plans to increase testing for coronavirus to up to 100,000 per day by the end of April.

Hancock said he was “absolutely determined that we get there” .

“It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to require an awful lot of people to put their shoulders to the wheel across the life sciences industry and the NHS,” he said.

Speaking earlier on theAndrew Marr Show, Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, warned that it was difficult to know when the coronavirus rules might be eased.

“There is no point, having gone through this effort, in releasing a lockdown at a point where case numbers are still high and will resurge even faster than we have seen before.

“We want case numbers to get to a low point where we can start substituting other measures for the most intrusive and economically costly aspects of the current lockdown.”

When asked about the potential final death toll, Professor Ferguson said: “It is very difficult to make predictions at the moment.

“What we have is an exponentially growing curve of infections which we interrupted at a certain time. We can’t say in terms of the infections precisely where we are on that curve, we don’t have the ability right now to measure how many people have been infected.

“That will come with antibody tests, so we are making statistical estimates and we think it [the death toll] could be anywhere between 7000 or so up to a little over 20,000.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s newly-elected deputy leader Angela Rayner criticised Hancock for returning to work last Thursday, a week after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

Rayner, who has herself been self-isolating with symptoms of Covid-19, told Ridge On Sunday, “I’m disappointed that Matt Hancock, after seven days of having the virus, went out when the World Health Organisation has said you should self-isolate for 14 days. I think it’s right that we do that because I cannot stress enough the severity of the symptoms that I have suffered, as you can tell from how breathless I am still now, and I’m day nine, day 10.

“I think the Government really need to give that clarity and continue to support people doing the right thing.”

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