Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said that anyone found on the bridge paying tribute to staff in St Thomass Hospital without a legitimate excuse for being there will be asked to go home.
He added that the same policy would be applied to gatherings at other prominent locations and that officers would be prepared to use the coronavirus legislation – which includes the power to issue fines – as a “last resort” if people fail to comply.
The police edict follows the appearance of increasingly large crowds of people on Westminster Bridge over recent weeks during the 8pm tribute to medical staff and other carers involved in helping the nation overcome the Covid-19 crisis.
There was particular controversy after video footage a fortnight ago captured police joining members of the public in large numbers on the bridge outside St Thomass.
Many of the participants were standing closer than social distancing rules permit, prompting critics on social media to complain about officers turning a blind eye to potentially unlawful conduct and the risk that coronavirus might be spread among the participants.
It emerged afterwards that Met Commissioner Cressida Dick was also on the bridge at the time, although some distance from the gathering away close to Scotland Yard.
Met says the same edict applies to gatherings at other prominent locations and that it will enforce coronavirus legislation – which includes the power to issue fines – as a “last resort” if people fail to comply with the request to go home.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who is leading the Met’s response to the pandemic, said that officers shared the publics support for Clap for Carers but that the law and rules on social distancing must be followed.
“As this event has gained prominence it is understandable that major landmarks, including Westminster Bridge in central London, have become focal points for those who wish to applaud,” he said.
“However it is not acceptable for people to disregard the safety of themselves and others. Officers will be present tonight to engage, explain and encourage them to observe social distancing rules.
“Members of the public who are not away from their homes for one of the reasons outlined in the Government’s emergency legislation should expect to be asked to return home. In keeping with our approach to these rules throughout the lockdown, officers will only enforce this legislation as a last resort.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Twist added: “Like millions of people across the UK, thousands of MPS officers and staff are joining Clap for Carers tribute every week. Tonight will be no different as they take a few moments out of their duties, wherever they are, to mark the work of our remarkable NHS .
“We have repeatedly reminded colleagues that they must maintain an appropriate social distance at all times where operationally possible. But to do this they also need the support and assistance of the public.”