Police increase patrols to deal with crowds on first weekend since pubs reopened

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3 min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: Police officers attempt to keep the crowd away from a police van after a man was arrester on Old Compton Street in Soho on April 16, 2021 in London, England. Pubs and Restaurants are expecting good business tonight being the first Friday night after Coronavirus lockdown rules were relaxed to allow outside dining and drinking. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Police officers attempt to keep the crowd away from a police van in Soho, London. (Getty)

Police forces across England have increased patrols to deal with potential COVID-19 violations and criminal behaviour on the first weekend pubs have opened since the third lockdown.

Extra officers have been deployed as authorities try to ensure social distancing rules are followed after restrictions were eased on Monday when pub gardens and restaurants were allowed to open.

As a result, thousands of people were out on the streets on Friday, with images from Soho in London showing scuffles between revellers and officers.

It was the first weekend pubs had been open across England since October.

Watch: Drinkers pack pavements as outdoor hospitality returns to England

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: Police officers arrest a man on Old Compton Street in Soho on April 16, 2021 in London, England. Pubs and Restaurants are expecting good business tonight being the first Friday night after Coronavirus lockdown rules were relaxed to allow outside dining and drinking. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Police officers arrest a man on Old Compton Street in the Soho area of London. (Getty)
People queue outside Wetherspoon's, King and Castle pub in Windsor, following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Picture date: Friday April 16, 2021.
People queue outside Wetherspoon's pub King and Castle in Windsor. (PA)

The Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors is eager to avoid any more trouble this weekend.

She said: ‘The Met is ready to welcome back people to the streets of London.

‘We will be stepping up our patrols to busy high footfall areas, to look out for everyone’s safety and to disrupt any criminal activity.

‘Of course, where we need to take action against those who dangerously flout the rules we will do. While the case rate has declined in London, we have seen the concerning position in northern Europe.

‘It is important that we all stick to the rules so further lockdowns, or restrictions, are avoided.’

Both the 10pm curfew rule and the requirement to order a substantial meal with a drink have been scrapped, but social distancing must be abided by.

PC Connors said he was confident most business owners would act responsibly but added they would “engage, explain the regulations and if needed take action.”

Primrose Hill, in north-west London, will be temporarily closed at 10pm each night to prevent any gatherings and parties being held there.

West Mercia Police and Humberside Police also confirmed they would be increasing patrols to deal with the extra number of people expected on the streets.

 People flock to pubs and bars on Stevenson Square in Manchester.
Pubs and restaurants with outdoor space have been allowed to reopen as lockdown restrictions are eased in the UK. (Photo by Adam Vaughan / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
People flock to pubs and bars on Stevenson Square in Manchester on Friday evening. (SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: A group of people sing Happy Birthday while enjoying drinks on Old Compton Street in Soho on April 16, 2021 in London, England. Pubs and Restaurants are expecting good business tonight being the first Friday night after Coronavirus lockdown rules were relaxed to allow outside dining and drinking. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
The streets will be packed this weekend. (Getty)

Due to Prince Philip’s funeral, the Met has had a protective security operation in place in the vicinity of Westminster and Buckingham Palace throughout the week to keep people safe and to deter criminal activity.

This highly visible policing operation will continue through the weekend, the Met confirmed.

PC Connors added: “While restrictions have recently eased, we need only look at what is happening now in some parts of Europe and our own recent experience to see how quickly things can change.

“We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and we must all continue to do what we can to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The next date earmarked on the road map is 17 May, when socialising indoors will be permitted under the “rule of six” if the prime minister judges that the vaccination programme is safely breaking the link between infections and deaths.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown