Health officials are concerned the British public are becoming complacent over lockdown rules, after traffic and mobile phone data reveals more people are on the road and are searching for directions.
The reopening of a number of major chains, along with sunny weather, has seen an increase in Britons leaving their homes for non-essential travel.
At a Downing Street briefing, Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said traffics levels are down 59% compared to February, but grew by three percentage points in the last seven days compared to the previous week.
Data by Apple concerning mobility revealed that despite a sharp drop in requests for directions, recent mobile phone searches for maps, walking, or driving has increased by eight percentage points.
Professor Powis said: “It won’t take much for this virus to start increasing its transmissions again and to spread more widely.
Adding: “It would be foolish and not right if we lost the benefits that we have gained over the last four weeks, which I know have been hard for everybody.”
The Metropolitan Police in London sent officers on bikes to keep an eye on those flouting social distancing rules in Hyde Park. In other areas, North Yorkshire police identified 50% of shutdown fines issued have gone to tourists visiting local beauty spots.
B&Q’s decision to reopen 130 stores prompted large queues outside its outlets in Bristol and Swansea, as the public use lockdown to catch up on DIY.
Questions have arisen from The Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF), a body representing Met officers, who said the government was sending out mixed messages around the shutdown.
MPF chairman Ken Marsh questioned whether allowing DIY stores to reopen was a wise course of action.
After returning to work, Boris Johnson delivered a speech to the public outside Downing Street; where he thanked the public for giving up their basic freedoms, though urged them to persevere with lockdown measures to prevent another wave of infection and long-lasting economic damage.
He said: “I can see the long-term consequences of lockdown as clearly as anyone, so yes, I entirely share your urgency,” he said. “It is the government’s urgency. And yet we must also recognise the risk of a second spike, the risk of losing control of that virus and letting the reproduction rate go back over one.
“That would mean not only a new wave of death and disease but also an economic disaster and we will be forced once again to slam on the brakes across the whole country, and whole economy, and reimpose restrictions in such a way as to do more and lasting damage.
“I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to throw away all the effort and sacrifice of the British people and risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS.”