Thousands of people gathered on Saturday in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest against the confinement and social distancing measures that the authorities implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The London Metropolitan Police have warned protesters to abide by social distancing rules. Prior to the event, police said officers would first try to explain the rules to people, but would take action if protesters refused to comply. As the protest began, there was a police presence at the edge of the crowd, but they did not confront the protesters, many of whom were not wearing masks.
“I know there is a lot of frustration about these regulations, but they are designed to keep everyone safe from what is a deadly virus,” said Commander Ade Adelekan. “But by flagrantly meeting in large numbers and ignoring social distancing, they are putting their health and the health of their loved ones at risk.
The demonstration comes at a time when Parliament is preparing to review an initiative against the COVID-19 pandemic and with which the government seeks to impose new restrictions to control it. Some lawmakers have criticized the government for implementing the rules without Parliament having approved them.
Speakers at the protest denied being conspirators and argued that they defend freedom of expression and human rights.
Dan Astin-Gregory, a leadership instructor, acknowledged the deaths and suffering caused by the pandemic, but said the response to COVID-19 has been disproportionately high in the face of the threat posed by the disease.
“We are tired of fear and misrepresentation of the facts,” he told the crowd. “We are tired of the restrictions on our freedoms.”
A few days ago, the government ordered a 10 p.m. curfew in bars and restaurants nationwide, along with stricter requirements for the use of masks and higher fines for those who do not comply. It also banned most social gatherings of more than six people, but there is a waiver for protests, as long as organizers provide a risk assessment and comply with social distancing measures.
Britain has the worst death toll from the coronavirus, with nearly 42,000 deaths related to COVID-19. New cases, hospitalizations and deaths have increased considerably in recent weeks.