Professor warns against 'really dangerous' barbecues as coronavirus lockdown measures are relaxed

Experts have warned against hosting barbecues this weekend (Getty Images)

A leading academic has warned against people across the country hosting barbecues this weekend, despite a gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown measures.

In a daily briefing on Thursday evening, Boris Johnson confirmed that from Monday, in England, groups of up to six people from different households will be allowed to meet in open spaces or gardens.

However, Professor Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has warned people against inviting people into their gardens for celebratory barbecues just yet.

She told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “The thing that really worries me is people are starting to say to me, oh, can I have a barbecue?

“That is the really dangerous thing because then we are really starting to hand things backwards and forwards to each other – plates, glasses, cups and so forth.”

Boris Johnson has announced a relaxing of lockdown rules enabling groups of up to six to meet outdoors but government advisers have warned against people hosting barbecues this weekend, warning it could lead to a further spread of COVID-19 (JULIAN SIMMONDS/Daily Telegraph/PA Images via Getty Images)

Bloomfield urged people to plump for picnics rather than barbecues to reduce the chances of the virus spreading.

She added: “So if you really want to have a social gathering and a meal, and the more time we spend outdoors the better, then it should be a picnic where we each bring our own food and knives and forks and plates and everything and keep them to ourselves and take them away with us.

“Then we can have a really nice social gathering. But barbecues - please no, at the moment.”

Following the PM’s announcement on Thursday, chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, stressed that although groups of six would be able to meet up to socialise and even enjoy barbecues, people from different households must still keep two metres apart.

Whitty said that the more than one million people deemed extremely clinically vulnerable must continue shielding, but offered a glimmer of hope when he said that the infection level may be sufficiently reduced to allow their freedom “relatively soon”.

The experts’ warnings came as new research revealed that fewer Britons are worrying about the impact of COVID-19.

The bank holiday weekend saw thousands flock to beauty spots and coastal resorts, and the continued warm weather and promise of more relaxed lockdown rules has prompted predictions of the same for the coming weekend.

Labour MP Richard Burgon has accused the government of 'playing Russian roulette with people's lives' as they lockdown restrictions are eased.

A spokesman for Downing Street warned on Friday that six-people meet-ups remain prohibited until Monday.

The PM’s spokesman continued: “We’ve said that wherever possible we would give a period of notice in advance of changes being made, ideally 48 hours or more, which is true in this respect.

“The current regulations are in force until Monday.

“I think the PM set out yesterday [that] we’re enormously grateful for the efforts of the British public in sticking by the rules and getting the infection rate down and that does mean that from June 1 we will be able to allow people to have some more social contact in a safe and socially-distanced way.”

Coronavirus: what happened today

Read more about COVID-19

How to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms
How easing of lockdown rules affects you
In pictures: How UK school classrooms could look in new normal
How public transport could look after lockdown
How our public spaces will change in the future

Help and advice

Read the full list of official FAQs here
10 tips from the NHS to help deal with anxiety
What to do if you think you have symptoms
How to get help if you've been furloughed