THE Health Secretary has urged the "small minority" of people who are breaking social distancing rules to change their behaviour, saying: "The more people follow the rules then the faster we will all be through this."

Matt Hancock, who said he understood how difficult a time the country was having because he has lost two people he was "fond of", added that the Government was "not planning any changes" imminently to the rules on exercising.

Earlier, Mr Hancock warned outdoor exercise could be banned if people continued to flout rules, as the coronavirus death toll rose sharply again.

It came ahead of a rare address from the Queen to the nation, in which she will urge the country to prove that this generation is "as strong as any".


In a televised message to be broadcast this evening, the head of state will recognise the pain felt by many families living through this "time of disruption".

She will personally thank frontline NHS staff, care workers and others carrying out essential roles for their efforts, in what is expected to be a deeply personal message reflecting her experience in other difficult times.

Speaking during the daily press conference this afternoon, as the country prepares to enter its third week in lockdown, Mr Hancock warned people not to flout rules around social distancing and said tougher restrictions could follow.

He added: "Following these rules is mission-critical if we're to protect the NHS, slow the spread and give the NHS time to expand capacity and so save lives.

"The more people follow the rules then the faster we will all be through this.

"So I say this to the small minority of people who are breaking the rules or pushing the boundaries: you're risking your own life and the lives of others and you're making it harder for us all."

Mr Hancock said the Government is not currently looking at tightening the rules on exercising outdoors, after images of crowded parks over the weekend sparked public outrage.

"What we are doing is being absolutely clear that the current rules must be followed," he said.

He said the rules are designed to include exercise to protect people's physical and mental wellbeing.

Earlier, the Met Office confirmed Sunday as the warmest day of the year so far, with both Heathrow and Kew Gardens recording temperatures of 19.8C at 1pm.

Speaking at the press conference, Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said: "It is not just what you are doing but how you are doing it.

"If you are sitting on a park bench, people tend to accumulate - it is very difficult to prevent that.

"Having rules where we are getting all of the benefits and minimising the risks and harms is an important approach to maintain.

"We have set those rules, we are enforcing against those rules and we will reiterate those rules, because that is the best way to be able to bend the curve down and stop the spread of the virus."

Mr Hancock, who returned from self-isolation on Friday after being struck ill with Covid-19, said he also offered his "profound sympathies" to the families and friends of those who have died.

He added: "I've lost two people that I was fond of so I understand what a difficult time this is for the country."

The Department of Health said the number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths stood at 4,934 patients as of 5pm on Saturday, up by 621 from 4,313 the day before.