Street parties erupted in Liverpool hours before the city entered into a strict lockdown, prompting both condemnation and praise from Britons as new coronavirus restrictions polarize the country.
The Northern England city was placed in the highest-risk category and was ordered to close its pubs and gyms after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a three-tier system designed to stop the spread of Covid-19. Liverpool residents are also prohibited from socializing with other households, both indoors and outdoors.
Hours before the draconian measures took effect, however, dozens of young people poured into the city’s center, where they danced and participated in other forms of not-socially-distanced merrymaking.
Videos posted to social media show revelers filling the streets after Liverpool’s pubs were ordered indefinitely closed at 10pm on Tuesday. The crowd can be heard shouting and dancing as they defy the newly-implemented coronavirus restrictions.
In one clip, a mob can be seen surrounding a police vehicle as law enforcement try to disperse the crowd.
The impromptu street carnival sparked condemnation from the government. Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky News that the scenes were “irresponsible and really disappointing.”
The city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, said the incident brought “shame” to Liverpool and accused the crowd of attacking police officers.
While many Britons were similarly outraged, some argued that it was unsurprising that students in the city, who have been “treated like prisoners” due to coronavirus measures, would eventually rebel.
Others expressed unapologetic support for the revelers. Simon Dolan, a British businessman who has launched a legal challenge against the UK government’s Covid-19 restrictions, called for similarly defiant street gatherings across the country.
The Liverpool City Region is currently the only area in the country to be declared at a “very high” risk from the coronavirus. The city recorded 3,164 new positive cases in the seven days up to 10 October. More than 95 percent of Liverpool’s intensive care beds are occupied, raising concerns that its health system could be overwhelmed.