Londoners again gather on Westminster Bridge to Clap for Carers despite police warning

Londoners again gathered on Westminster Bridge to take part in Thursday’s Clap for Carers despite police warning it was “not acceptable” to put safety at risk by flouting lockdown rules.

Far fewer people congregated on the crossing than in previous weeks for the national round of applause for frontline workers, but officers were seen reminding groups of social distancing guidelines.

The iconic bridge had been mobbed for the past two weeks, prompting a backlash and police warning that anyone seen on the iconic bridge for the applause without a legitimate excuse would be asked to go home.

People are encouraged to join in with a national round of applause every Thursday evening to show appreciation for the efforts of healthcare workers in the fight against coronavirus.

People applaud on Westminster Bridge in support of the NHS is seen before the Clap for our Carers campaign (REUTERS)

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist earlier said that anyone found on the bridge paying tribute to staff in St Thomas’s Hospital without a legitimate excuse for being there would be asked to go home.

He added that officers would be prepared to use the coronavirus legislation – which includes the power to issue fines – as a “last resort” if people fail to comply.

There were no immediate reports of these powers being used on Thursday night.

The police edict follows the appearance of increasingly large crowds of people on Westminster Bridge over recent weeks during the 8pm tribute to medical staff and other carers involved in helping the nation overcome the Covid-19 crisis.

There was particular controversy after video footage a fortnight ago captured police joining members of the public in large numbers on the bridge outside St Thomas’s.

Many of the participants were standing closer than social distancing rules permit, prompting critics on social media to complain about officers turning a blind eye to potentially unlawful conduct and the risk that coronavirus might be spread among the participants.

It emerged afterwards that Met Commissioner Cressida Dick was also on the bridge at the time, although some distance from the gathering away close to Scotland Yard.

Met said the same edict applies to gatherings at other prominent locations and that it will enforce coronavirus legislation – which includes the power to issue fines – as a “last resort” if people fail to comply with the request to go home.

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