LONDON: Demonstrations of more than two people are to be banned during the month-long lockdown in England, with ministers set to remove an exemption that has allowed protests to take place in recent months.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is reported to have briefed chief constables over enforcement after Boris Johnson’s ditched regional rules in favour of national measures to curb transmission of coronavirus across the country, the Independent has reported.
Under the new lockdown, which has come into effect across the country on Thursday, people can exercise or visit outdoor public places with people they live with or one other person from another household.
New regulations have not yet been published, but in a statement the Home Office said the draconian rules will apply to protests too, insisting that any gathering “risks spreading the disease”.
Under the previous “rule of six” introduced by the prime minister in the late summer to combat increasing cases of Covid-19, protests were exempt if they were organised in compliance with Covid-secure guidance.
According to The Times, protests will not be explicitly prohibited in the new regulations, but the previous exemption, allowing demonstrations under certain circumstances, will be removed by ministers as the lockdown comes into force.
In recent days, some European countries, including Italy and Spain, have seen protests in response to fresh restrictions being imposed by governments. On Friday, violent clashes erupted in Barcelona as individuals protested against the mandatory closure of bars, restaurants and other businesses.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The right to peaceful protest is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. In these unprecedented circumstances, any gathering risks spreading the disease, leading to more deaths, so it is vital we all play our part in controlling the virus.