Large groups of young people in fancy dress drank alcohol and chanted near police vehicles on the streets of Nottingham last night – hours before the toughest coronavirus restrictions were imposed on the city.
The gatherings came despite police warning that they would have “no hesitation” in fining those who deliberately flout the rules.
Nottingham officially moved into Tier 3 at 12.01am today, and new rules will include a ban on buying alcohol from shops after 9pm.
Some of the youngsters appeared to be celebrating Halloween two days early. A few police vehicles were present in the city centre, as well as an ambulance.
Earlier on Thursday, Assistant Chief Constable Kate Meynell said: “Sadly there has been a minority of people who think the legislation doesn’t apply to them and we have been forced to take action, and in some cases hand out fines.
“In the last week we have given £10,000 fines to four people who organised parties with more than 30 people present as well as numerous £200 fines to people who wantonly broke the law.”
She added that people who break the rules “with no regard for the impact their actions have on families and frontline key workers” will be fined.
Kay Cutts, the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said the 9pm alcohol ban had been requested to stop students partying.
She told reporters: “That’s something which has been blighting a bit of Nottinghamshire… younger people don’t ever think they are going to catch anything.”
Similar scenes were seen on the streets of Liverpool the night before Tier 3 restrictions were imposed there in mid-October.
After footage of large crowds in Concert Square were circulated on social media, intensive care doctors told Sky News they were “disgusted” by what had happened, adding: “They don’t care that people are dying from this disease, it is heart-breaking to watch.”
Nottinghamshire’s public health director, Jonathan Gribbin, has said that the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the county is now 40% higher than the peak of the first wave in April.
He warned that “even a well-organised NHS and care system will struggle to cope” with the sharp rise in patients.
As of 27 October, 361 beds across the county were occupied by people suffering from COVID-19 – but this rose to 413 just one day later.
“I think straight away it gives you an indication of how quickly it’s increasing,” he said.
Several cancer operations have had to be postponed in Nottinghamshire because of “pressure on intensive care units”.
With Nottinghamshire entering Tier 3 – and West Yorkshire set to follow suit on Monday – 11 million will now be living in the highest level of coronavirus restrictions. That’s 19.6% of the population.
The Tees Valley and the West Midlands could also be moved to Tier 3, meaning millions more could soon be under the strictest level of lockdown in England.
Meanwhile, data from NHS England shows the number of beds occupied by confirmed coronavirus patients has more than doubled in two weeks – from 4,105 on 13 October to 8,595 on Tuesday.
There were also 743 COVID-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds on Tuesday, up from 560 a week earlier.
The NHS Test and Trace system has also recorded its highest-ever weekly number of positive cases, while a study by Imperial College London has found that almost 100,000 people are catching COVID-19 on a daily basis.
With France entering a second lockdown from today, and Germany imposing a partial four-week lockdown, the UK government is coming under pressure to adopt a more national approach to tackle surging infection rates.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the government has not ruled anything out.
On Thursday, government figures showed that there have been 23,065 more lab-confirmed cases in the UK, and a further 280 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19.
The Department of Health and Social Care also said more than a dozen regions will move from the lowest to the middle tier of restrictions on Saturday.
These include East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston-upon-Hull, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Dudley, Staffordshire, Telford, the Wrekin, Amber Valley, Bolsover, Derbyshire Dales, Derby City, South Derbyshire, the whole of High Peak, Charnwood, Luton and Oxford.