Authorities employed to prosecute restaurants and bars breaching new coronavirus lockdown rules were spotted peeping through pub windows and front door letter slots in London.
City inspectors were seen touring Soho on Thursday night (local time), ensuring venues were abiding by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new nationwide 10pm curfew.
“Strange sight – City Inspectors, working through Soho, looking for illegal speakeasies open after the 10pm cutoff,” Dan Barker, a consultant from London who spotted the inspectors, wrote on Twitter.
“I'd guess I saw them looking into a dozen or so places – the area has quite a lot of pubs and bars,” Mr Barker told Yahoo UK.
“It took me a moment to process what they were doing at first. I saw them again 15 minutes or so later outside the Hippodrome, which is usually open 24/7.”
Venues and business owners could face fines of up to £10,000 (AU$18,000) if they did not abide by the curfew, which could be in place for up to six months.
“In retail, leisure and tourism and other sectors, our COVID-secure guidelines will become legal obligations,” Mr Johnson told the Commons on Tuesday (local time) as he set out the new rules.
Central London was reported to be even quieter on Thursday evening (local time) than in recent weeks, a result of coronavirus restrictions and concern over the growing number of daily infections.
But revellers still took to the streets as they left venues at 10pm and footage of crowds gathering prompted criticism the curfew was encouraging people to mix and defy social-distancing measures.
“The 10pm curfew just meant everyone rolling out onto the streets and onto the tubes at the same time and it was the busiest I’ve seen central London in months,” Kirsty Lewis wrote on Twitter.
“Yep! Definitely turned 10pm into a rush hour rather than the usual evening trickle,” Josh Mellor replied.
Mr Barker said Soho was “surprisingly subdued” for most of the evening, but for half a dozen film crews and press photographers “that people congregated around at 10pm, as places closed their doors”.
“Some people seemed confused that literally everything was closed, but the streets became almost silent shortly after 10,” he said.
The 10pm curfew for all hospitality venues is part of a new wave of restrictions aimed to prevent a second spike in cases of COVID-19 in the UK.
Venues are also obliged to only offer table service and all team members must wear face coverings.
– Yahoo News UK
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