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Coronavirus lockdown breakers: ‘We got a dirty look and I called it to an end’

Police instruct walker on beach in Briton, East Sussex

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More than 9,000 fines were issued by police in England to people breaking the lockdown. While the vast majority are obeying the lockdown rules, a small minority are resistant to them.

The government’s health advisors say we are just over the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and sticking to the lockdown is crucial save lives. Here, three people explain why they didn’t.

Sarah, 39, London

Two of my best friends are in a couple. Both said they had the virus a few weeks ago. They hadn’t been tested but they had all the symptoms. Last weekend they sent me a message saying they were coming to East London to see people from a safe social distance.

I said to stop and wave when they got to my house. But when they arrived outside I thought we’re going to have to invite them in. Part of it was the weather. It was so beautiful it lulled me into a sense of false security.

I live near a canal path and last weekend I felt there were more people out drinking and getting together. Plus my mum’s friends have all been meeting up secretly for walks and they are in the at-risk category as well.

It was so exciting to see friends again and have that human interaction but very quickly I started to feel very guilty.

What are the social distancing rules?

  • People should go out as little as possible and only if they have a “reasonable excuse”
  • Leaving home for shopping, medical reasons or to exercise with members of your household is allowed
  • Travel to and from work is permitted, but only when you cannot work from home
  • If you have to go outside stay more than 2m (6ft) apart from anyone other than members of your household

What are the rules on social distancing?

My husband wasn’t happy about it at all. He said it gave off the impression that we felt we are somehow better than everyone else. We sat outside on the balcony and quickly got spotted by a neighbour. She gave us a dirty look and I felt we had to call an end to it.

The first 15 minutes or so felt great but within half an hour it did make me feel bad. They were gone within an hour.

My friends said we should go and visit them next time. But I don’t think I would do that again until I had some new advice from the government. Looking back now it does feel irresponsible.

Jeremy, 19, Midlands

I am a student back from university and living at home. My mum had been on at me for weeks to get a new haircut. My hair is really frizzy and it gets so irritating when it’s hot.

We haven’t got razors, clippers or anything like that so cutting it myself just wasn’t an option. Mum is in touch with this underground network of hairdressers who have been working from home.

We drove to a nearby city. We parked down the road and just knocked on the door.

I’d never met the hairdresser before. She was in her 20s and had everything set up in her kitchen: all the proper utensils and a mirror from her bedroom propped up against the table. She said she needed the money. She had just started her own business so couldn’t be furloughed and had fallen through the cracks [of the government’s different support schemes].

I did spot one of the neighbours as I was coming out of the house and wondered what they were thinking.

I know it wasn’t in accordance with the rules and most people would think this isn’t essential. But I didn’t worry too much about the risks. The whole thing took about half an hour.

My girlfriend though was upset. She was really irritated at me for doing it and thought it was a risk for no good reason.

Pedestrian walks past a mural depicting a woman wearing a face mask

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Lockdown observance

  • 9%people resistant (48% accepting; 44% struggling but obeying)

  • 9,176lockdown fines issued 27 March – 27 April in England & Wales

Source: National Police Chiefs Council, Ipsos Mori/King’s College London

Matt, 29, south-west England

We had been reading about a meteor shower that was meant to be really spectacular on Wednesday night. So around 11.30pm I piled into the car with my mum, dad and younger brother. We had a telescope and binoculars.

The idea was to drive about four or five miles out of the city to get a better view of the sky at midnight.

We were less than 500m from our house and a police car pulled out. It had been stationary and parked at the side of the road. It followed us and its lights came on. Then a second police car arrived with lights, sirens, the whole works.

They asked what we were doing and were perfectly polite. They said this was an unnecessary journey and we had to go home. My dad told them this was our daily exercise but they were not having it.

I can understand their argument but to deny us the right to exercise seems overzealous. It starts to become a night curfew and that’s not what the regulations are about.

For example if I was an essential worker and wanted to go for a late-night run, then what’s to stop me doing that? They were saying we should exercise in a local space but the lockdown rules say you are allowed to drive a short distance to exercise.

I did complain to the police in writing afterwards. They replied saying our travel was non-essential but I still don’t think we broke the rules.

Some names of participants have been changed.

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