Park chiefs ask Londoners to social distance to stop Covid-19 spread


Visitors enjoying London’s much-loved open spaces are urged to keep their distance this weekend to prevent a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Parks have proved an important lifeline for Londoners to get out and enjoy exercise during the pandemic – especially as many people do not have a garden of their own.

From Monday (March 29) people will be able to meet up outside in groups of six or with one other household. Under the Government’s rules, people from different households will still have to maintain social distance from each other to prevent Covid infection.

Now the capital’s park bosses are urging people to stay vigilant.

Their warning comes as the latest government data reveals that up to March 18, 2.5m Londoners have had their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and a further 149,976 have had two jabs.

Park bosses from the City of London Corporation which cares for Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest, Royal Parks, Lee Valley Regional Park, London’s 33 boroughs, the 560 acre Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London and the 26-mile Lea Valley Regional Park made the call ahead of Monday’s easing of some lockdown measures.

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They are reminding Londoners to keep on playing their part to keep infection rates down as cases reduce across the capital and people hope to get back to some kind of normality.

Colin Buttery, who is the City of London’s director of open spaces, which include 200 small parks in the Square Mile said: “Parks have played a crucial role in the physical and mental health of Londoners during the pandemic.

“But although some restrictions will soon be eased, we are still in a national lockdown – and it’s crucial that we all follow the rules to prevent a new spike. Londoners have already made huge sacrifices to cut infection rates, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. But we can’t afford to be complacent now and allow this virus to spread.”

And Tom Jarvis, who is the director of the eight parks at The Royal Parks – which include Hyde Park in central London and Richmond Park – also urged people to be mindful of caring for the parks too.

He said: “We’ve welcomed an unprecedented number of visitors throughout the pandemic, to boost visitors’ mental and physical wellbeing, but increased footfall is putting pressure on the natural environment.”

He said everyone can do their bit to ensure the parks are pleasant for people and wildlife despite the extra numbers of visitors.

“Simple actions, like sticking to pathways and keeping dogs on a short lead around wildlife and near skylark nesting areas, putting litter in bins – or taking it home, and keeping at least 50m away from deer, can help to protect the parks so they remain beautiful spaces for the year ahead,” he said.

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