British Transport Police Tuesday night ordered 500 officers to patrol the rail network and warn passengers they should only use trains or the Tube for essential journeys during the coronavirus outbreak, Fox News reports.
The day before images of packed London Underground carriages emerged stoking fears the coronavirus could easily spread on public transport.
According to The Sun, furious commuters were forced to cram onto trains and buses after London Mayor Sadiq Khan cut back transport services. Many could be key workers, or employed in jobs that don’t allow them to work at home – but are now having to travel on reduced services.
“The measures announced yesterday by the prime minister are there to save lives, which is part of the work our officers do every day,” Sean O’Callaghan, assistant chief constable for the British Transport Police, told The Sun, referring to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plea to the public to comply with containment measures.
Stay at home, protect the NHS and SAVE LIVES.
— British Transport Police (@BTP) March 24, 2020
“We are supporting rail operators and those key workers making their journeys home tonight by deploying 500 officers across the rail network nationally,” O’Callaghan added. “They will be patrolling stations, supporting railway staff and reminding the public of the urgent need to follow the government advice – only those making essential journeys for work should be using the Tube and rail network.
“We strongly urge the rest of the public to do the right thing and help us save lives by staying at home and slowing the spread of the virus.”
On Monday, Johnson ordered the closure of most stores and banned gatherings for three weeks. Britain had already closed schools, bars and restaurants and told people to stay home, but people defied the government’s guidance on social distancing. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on employers to have more of their employees work at home.
“Ignoring these rules means more lives lost,” Khan said, according to the Evening Standard.
As of early Wednesday, Britain had more than 8,100 cases of the virus and had seen 422 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.