DRINKERS have ignored a warning that the UK is “losing control of Covid” as they hit the bars on the last Saturday before new lockdown rules come into effect.
Groups of friends crammed into pubs and restaurants to “go out in style” before the “rule of six” is enforced on Monday.
Daily infections yesterday stood at 3,497 — double the 1,813 positive tests announced just a week ago and the highest Saturday rise since May.
Pictures show large groups of friends heading on nights out in Nottingham city centre – with huge queues outside the city’s bars and pubs.
Police officers were on the streets to make sure the party-goers were under control.
Large groups of drinkers also gathered at seafront bars in Brighton to make the most of the September sunshine before heading out on the town.
One group of young men had hired a minibus to travel into the seaside resort from Guildford, Surrey with the aim of getting together for one last hurrah.
One of the men, Owain, 24, said: “This new rule means we’re not going be able to go out for ages together as a group. It might even be after Christmas before we see each other again so we wanted to go out in style.”
Jamie Rylance, who was with a group of 10, said: “I’ve come out with a few friends for a last drink or two because you never know what this government is going to do next.
“I got caught up with the Spain quarantine so I’ve been stuck indoors for a fortnight. The problem is that everyone has got bored with it and people are no longer wearing masks and social distancing anymore. It is worrying but what can you do?”
Another group of 15 young friends met for a pub crawl and said they were looking for to a “blow out”.
From Monday, the law change in England will ban more than six people meeting anywhere socially indoors or outdoors – dubbed the “rule of six”.
It will not apply to schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports.
The rule will be enforced through a £100 fine if people fail to comply, doubling on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200.
The measures include the introduction of “Covid-secure marshals”, to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres.
It comes as coronavirus cases in the over-50s surged by 92 per cent.
And ex-chief scientific adviser and Scientific Advisory Group member, Sir Mark Walport, warned: “I think one would have to say that we’re on the edge of losing control.”
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The short answer is the only way to stop the spread of this infection is to reduce the number of people we all come into contact with, that lowers the risk.
“It’s a very very fine balancing act, it’s very important to get youngsters back to school, people to university, but it means we’re going to have to hold back our contacts in other areas.”
Groups of friends gathered across UK cities in what might be their last night out as a crew for weeks.
On Wednesday the PM announced new restrictions in a bid to stop coronavirus‘ alarming spread — after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty revealed infections were soaring among the young.
He warned that people flouting the clampdown — including bans on social gatherings of more than six — could even be arrested.
‘WORRYING’ RISE IN CASES
In his first press conference since July, the PM announced moves to ramp up enforcement of the tough rules to make sure everyone is following them – or they risk being slapped with fines of at least £100.
And now Brits will face whopping fines for breaking self-isolation rules as part of new plans to halt the surge in coronavirus cases.
Mr Johnson is drawing up new plans to enforce the strict measures amid fears people are ignoring advice.
Medical experts warned that a second spike in coronavirus was being fuelled by young people failing to follow the rules on social distancing and hygiene.
In a concerning development, infections have surged among middle-aged Brits – as cases in over-50s rocketed by 92 per cent last week.
Senior government officials have said the rise in cases in higher risk groups is “worrying” as Downing Street looks to stem the spread of the bug heading into the winter.
The PM apologised for having to take such measures, and said it “breaks my heart” to have to stop families from being able to see each other.
He said: “I wish that we did not have to take this step. But as your Prime Minister, I must do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and save lives.”
And he promised he will only keep the strict rules in place “as long as necessary”, but said it was “just too early to say” how long they will be need to stay for.
CHRISTMAS UNDER THREAT
It means that grandparents and grandchildren may not be able to spend Christmas together if the rules stay in place until then.
On Wednesday Matt Hancock admitted the new lockdown rules banning groups of more than six could be still in place at Christmas – but he hoped for them to be scrapped by then.
Mr Hancock was asked on Radio 1’s Newsbeat if the rules will still be in place for Christmas.
And he replied: “Potentially beyond. I’d like to be able to relax them before Christmas, obviously…”
He was then asked if that would mean families couldn’t celebrate together as usual.