George Eustice has defended giving the public “notice” of a relaxation of the lockdown from Monday – despite sunny weather forecast across the country over the weekend.
The environment secretary’s comments come after Boris Johnson said people will be able to see up to six friends and family members from 1 June in gardens and outdoor settings across England.
Over the weekend current restrictions will remain in force, with people able to do as much outdoors exercise as desired, but only permitted to meet with one other individual from another household in public parks.
But as much of the country experiences dry and hot weather, Mr Eustice was challenged by BBC Breakfast on whether it was realistic to expect the public to wait until Monday to meet with friends in parks and gardens.
The cabinet minister said the intention was to give the public “as much as possible notice about the direction of travel”, adding: “Yes, we’ve given people a bit of notice of what we intend to change from Monday. I think I recall it was the same last time that didn’t pose any particular problems,
“I generally think people have engaged sensibly with the rules that we’ve set down. They recognise the difficult situation that we’re in as a country that we’re all going to have to live alongside this virus for quite some time and I think they are being pragmatic and exercising judgement.
“They did that last time, I’ve no reason to assume they would do it differently this time.”
Pressed on whether the instructions to police would be the same over the next few days as the preceding weeks, he added: “Yes, the instructions for the police stay the same and they change obviously when these new conditions come in at the beginning of next week.”
Mr Eustice was also unable to provide details on how many calls were made by contact tracers operating the new NHS test and trace programme in its first 24 hours of operation amid reports some workers had struggled to log on to the new computer systems.