Coronavirus: Hackney Council opens Clissold 45 minutes earlier amid reports park has become a ‘virus farm’

Clissold Park. "Far fewer people out, much better #SocialDistancing and fewer people breaching #Covi

Clissold Park. "Far fewer people out, much better #SocialDistancing and fewer people breaching #Covid19 rules, so thank you. Hopefully the message is sinking in." Picture: Woodberry Down Police - Credit: Woodberry Down Police

Hackney Council will be opening Clissold Park 45 minutes earlier tomorrow to allow people to keep a safer distance after reports that “dangerous overcrowding” has led turned it into a “virus farm” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The council said it would be opening the gates to the park off Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, at 6.45am to “give people longer to visit”. Users have been urged to only use the park for exercise and to keep two metres away from other people.

“This will slow the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives,” said a council spokesperson.

The country is on lockdown to slow the spread of the contagious disease, but people are still allowed to go outside to exercise once a day.

The move comes as Tower Hamlets completely closed Victoria Park after visitors insisted on gathering in groups, holding picnics, drinking, sunbathing and playing football and team sports - even after police stepped in.

One visitor to Clissold Park who wanted to remain anonymous told the Gazette they thought Clissold should also be closed, and dubbed it a “virus farm”.

“Runners are six inches or less from walkers they’re passing, gasping and panting. There’ll be a local cases spike in two weeks,” they warned. “One running asymptomatic carrier could create a hotspot, when the whole idea of lockdown is to slow down transmission while we test for antibodies and create a vaccine.”

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Another visitor, Rob Harvey, warned on Twitter yesterday: “If you fancy catching the coronavirus, head on down to Clissold Park. Hundreds of runners, groups of people, sun bathers and there’s currently a rugby game going on. Police are there doing nothing.”

However Woodberry Down Police reported today that the situation has improved, with “far fewer people out, much better social distancing and fewer people breaching Covid-19 rules”.

“Hopefully the message is sinking in,” they said - but added that they had still had to move on about 35 individuals and groups today. Clissold Park Users’ Group urged people to observe social distancing rules and limit use of the park.

“It’s vitally important for everyone’s health and wellbeing that we keep the park open,” they said. “Please remember there are a lot of people living here so it’s going to get crowded.”

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