Government orders local councils to keep parks open during coronavirus lockdown

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick says he has ordered councils to keep all public parks open during the coronavirus  lockdown.

It comes after several councils closed parks for a day or longer in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 following a high number of visitors on sunny and warm days in recent weeks.

Cheshire East Council closed Queens Park, in Crewe, last month ‘until further notice’ after people ignored strict rules on social distancing.

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At today’s daily briefing, Mr Jenrick said: “There have been examples of some parks around the country closing, this cannot be right.

“While the virus does not discriminate we know that the lockdown is much harder for people who don’t have a lot of living space, for people who don’t have a garden and for those who don’t have anywhere for their children to run around.

For “the health of the nation,” he said, “people need parks… people must be able to enjoy fresh air and green space.”

Mr Jenrick reminded Britons to abide by social distancing rules and not to congregate in groups in parks.

He also said he had asked councils to keep cemeteries open to allow families to grieve for their loved ones.

The Cabinet minister pointed to the death of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from Brixton, who died after contracting Covid-19.

He said the tragedy was compounded after the family could not attend his funeral.

He added: “That is not right and it shouldn’t have happened. For clarity, funerals can go ahead with close family present.

“Social distancing measures must be respected, but families must have the opportunity to say a respectful goodbye to those that they love.”

The Government will publish further guidance on funerals, Mr Jenrick added: “I’m also asking councils to keep open or indeed to reopen cemeteries and graveyards… for people to make that private visit and seek solace at the grave of someone you’ve loved or to privately lay flowers.

“There have been times in my life when I have needed to do that. These are small steps, but small mercies can make a difference.”

The UK’s death toll increased to 15,464 today after almost 900 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

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