A body representing police officers in London has criticised the government’s pandemic response as “wishy-washy” amid concerns that the public has begun ignoring lockdown restrictions.
The Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF) said that, despite its assertions to the contrary, the government is sending out mixed messages.
MPF’s Ken Marsh told BBC Radio 4 that authorities “needed to be firmer right from the beginning”.
He said: “It’s been quite wishy-washy how we’ve gone about it. Had we been very stringent from the off – it is painful, but it’s not overly painful in terms of what you’re actually being asked to do – then I think we would have a better result now.”
Health officials have said they fear Britons are starting to get complacent about the Covid-19 lockdown after traffic and mobile phone data revealed more people are on the roads and looking for directions.
Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said on Saturday that “there was a little bit of concern” after the unseasonably warm weather drew big crowds to public spaces.
Scotland Yard sent officers on bikes to keep an eye on London’s Hyde Park, while North Yorkshire Police revealed that 50% of shutdown fines issued so far have gone to tourists visiting beauty spots in the area.
The criticism came as a diagnostic expert asked to consult on the government’s Covid-19 contact tracing app criticised it for focusing on coughs and fever at the exclusion of other symptoms.
The smartphone download was being trialled on the Isle of Wight before its anticipated roll-out across the rest of the country later this month.
Dr Nick Summerton, a GP with 32 years’ experience, told the Sunday Mirror the app risked ignoring 10 symptoms other than fever or cough.
He said: “The first point I made was include many more symptoms. The second was they should talk to Tim Spector about symptom clustering work he has done. To ignore such good work is strange.”
Prof Spector, of King’s College London, launched the Covid-19 Symptom Tracker app on 23 March, with some three million people using it in Britain and the US since.
He said the government, however, had refused to work with his team.
“The government is putting politics above science,” he told the Mirror.
“We should be using a combination of symptoms to diagnose this. It would save lives. We are falling behind other countries.”
The app requires smartphone users to download it and share data the moment they test positive or display signs of Covid-19, with the app sending a notification to all mobile phone users who have been in recent proximity advising them to self-isolate.
Experts have said time is a main factor in the app helping contain the spread of coronavirus.