Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma Tested For Covid-19 After Appearing Unwell In The Commons

Alok Sharma at the House of Commons despatch box on Wednesday.

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Business secretary Alok Sharma has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self-isolate after beginning to feel unwell in the House of Commons chamber, his spokesperson said.

The development came a day after MPs approved the government’s plan to end virtual voting in the Commons.

During a debate, Sharma was seen wiping his face with a handkerchief several times and his opposite number in Labour’s shadow cabinet, Ed Miliband, passed him a glass of water at one point.

“Secretary of state Alok Sharma began feeling unwell when in the chamber delivering the second reading of the corporate governance and Insolvency Bill,” the spokesperson said.

“In line with guidance he has been tested for coronavirus and is returning home to self-isolate.”

 

Business Secretary Alok Sharma wiped his face several times with a handkerchief and appeared to struggle as he spoke about the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill in the Commons pic.twitter.com/ysQ5RPF9lR

— George Ryan 🏳️‍🌈 (@GeorgeMRyan) June 3, 2020

 

HuffPost UK understands there was a long suspension of the Commons while there was a “deep clean” of the despatch box and nearby area after Sharma’s appearance.

The Commons was due to be suspended for 5 minutes, which is the normal turnaround to allow MPs in and out at distance, but it ended up being suspended for 15 minutes.

It comes following fierce criticism that MPs with disabilities and caring responsibilities have been shut out by the ending of virtual proceedings.

Chaotic scenes emerged in the House of Commons on Tuesday as MPs joined an Alton Towers-style queue to decide to end online voting during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Social distancing measures required them to join a queue, keep two metres apart, walk through the Commons chamber and announce their vote.

The queue stretched for several hundred metres, snaking throughout the parliamentary estate, with the first vote running for 46 minutes.

Madeleine McCann: German Prisoner Identified As New Suspect In 2007 Disappearance

Madeleine McCann

A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed.

The Metropolitan Police have not named the man, 43, who is described as white with short, blond hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build.

The German national is known to have been in and around Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast at the time Madeleine vanished on May 3, 2007, while on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie.

A half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.

The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter, has been linked to an early 1980s VW T3 Westfalia camper van – with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal – which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007.

VW T3 Westfalia campervan linked to the suspect.

Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine’s disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.

He has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.

The day after Madeleine went missing, the suspect got the car re-registered in Germany under someone else’s name, although it is believed the vehicle was still in Portugal.

Both vehicles have been seized by German police.

A 1993 Jaguar XJR6 was also linked to the suspect.

Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), including a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine’s disappearance.

The Met’s investigation has identified more than 600 people as being potentially significant and were tipped off about the German national, already known to detectives, following a 2017 appeal 10 years after she went missing.

She vanished shortly before her fourth birthday and would have turned 17 last month.

German police are treating her disappearance as a murder investigation but the Met’s Operation Grange, launched in 2013, has always considered the case a missing person inquiry.

A statement from Madeleine’s parents, read by Det Chief Insp Mark Cranwell said: “We welcome the appeal today regarding the disappearance of our daughter Madeleine.

“We would like to thank the police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine.

“All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice.

“We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive, but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.

“We will be making no further comment in relation to the appeal today.

“We would like to thank the general public for their ongoing support and encourage anyone who has information directly related to the appeal to contact police.”

 

Camper van sought in the investigation.

 

Cranwell told reporters on Wednesday he was taking the “really unusual” step of releasing two mobile phone numbers as part of the appeal.

The first, (+351) 912 730 680, is believed to have been used by the suspect and received a call from another Portuguese mobile, (+351) 916 510 683, while in the Praia da Luz area, starting at 7.32pm and ending at 8.02pm on the night of May 3, 2007.

Madeleine is believed to have disappeared between 9.10pm and 10pm that evening.

The caller, who is not thought to have been in the Praia da Luz area, is not being treated as a suspect, but is said to be a “key witness” in the case.

“Any information in relation to these mobile numbers during the spring and summer of 2007 could be critical to this investigation,” said Cranwell.

“Some people will know the man we are describing today, the suspect in our investigation. I’m appealing to you directly.

“You may know, you may be aware of some of the things he has done. He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine.

“More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed.

“This individual is in prison and we are conscious that some people may have been concerned about contacting police in the past. Now is the time to come forward.

“I’m appealing to you to contact us, or the German authorities or the Portuguese authorities.

“I should be very, very clear on this – while this male is a suspect, we retain an open mind as to his involvement.”

The suspect is known to have been linked to the Praia da Luz area between 1995 and 2007, with some short spells in Germany, and is described as having a “transient lifestyle”, living in his camper van for days at a time.

Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen the camper van in or around Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine went missing, the days before or weeks after.

Detectives also want to speak with anyone who saw the van together with the Jaguar, or individually, during the spring and summer of 2007.

Deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said the investigation into the suspect had seen Met detectives sent to Portugal and Germany.

He added: “This is a significant development, which is why we’ve made the decision to take this significant step of making a public appeal on some information that we would not normally talk about in our major investigations.”

The Met’s “Operation Grange” incident room can be contacted on 020 7321 9251 or operation.grange@met.police.uk.

All Four Former Police Officers Involved In The Killing Of George Floyd To Be Charged

Three more former Minnesota police officers will be charged in the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after an officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes during an arrest.

The office of Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison plans to charge Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng on Wednesday with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder, according to reporting by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that HuffPost confirmed with a law enforcement source.

The Hennepin County prosecutor had already arrested Derek Chauvin, the former police officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, last week, charging him with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Ellison’s office is also planning to announce that it would be upgrading the third-degree murder charge to second-degree murder.

Minnesota governor Tim Walz tapped Ellison, a former progressive congressman and civil rights attorney, on Sunday to take over the case from Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman. Walz said he made the decision to put Ellison in charge after consulting with Floyd’s family.

Floyd was killed on May 25 after the officers arrested him for allegedly attempting to make a purchase at a store with a fraudulent $20 bill. As seen in horrifying video of Floyd’s arrest, Chauvin used his knee to hold Floyd down by the neck even as Floyd pleaded: “Please, man, I can’t breathe.”

Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd, who was apparently in handcuffs, even after he stopped speaking and moving. He remained there as onlookers shouted at other officers to attend to Floyd.

In another video, three other officers can be seen crowding around Floyd, who is on the floor, during the arrest.

According to the Minneapolis Police Department, Floyd was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital.

Floyd’s death, like other police killings of Black men, has sparked days of protests and public outcry in Minneapolis and across the US.

Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Keung were fired, but protesters and community leaders demanded that the officers be arrested and charged with murder.

The Minneapolis Police Department initially claimed Floyd was physically resisting arrest. However, surveillance footage obtained by CNN which captured a portion of the arrest does not support that claim.

During an interview with CNN last week, Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd called for the protests to remain peaceful but he also said demonstrators were “torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing Black men die. Constantly, over and over again.”

“These officers, they need to be arrested right now. They need to be arrested and held accountable about everything because these people want justice right now,” Philonise Floyd told CNN, calling for the death penalty.

Boris Johnson Dragged Into Firing Line Over Tory Donor’s Controversial £1bn Housing Deal

Boris Johnson speaking during prime minister's questions in the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson is facing questions over what he knew about a Tory donor’s controversial £1bn east London development that his housing secretary “unlawfully” signed off – after it emerged the PM waved through a version of the same scheme four years ago when he was mayor of London.

Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has received fierce criticism after approving the 1,500-home development at the former Westferry Printworks site on London’s Isle of Dogs in January, despite the scheme being rejected by the local council and then the independent Planning Inspectorate.

The secretary of state’s intervention came just a day before Tower Hamlets Council approved a new rate for its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a move that would have increased the property owner’s financial liability to the authority by between £30m and £50m.

The building used to be the Daily Express printworks on the Millwall waterfront and sits on land owned by Northern & Shell, a company in turn owned by media mogul Richard Desmond, a former Tory party donor.

HuffPost UK reported this week that police are “assessing” an allegation about Jenrick’s decision.

Last month, Jenrick conceded his decision was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias” and confirmed his approval was deliberately issued before the new CIL policy could be adopted. The move meant Jenrick was able to avoid publishing correspondence relating to the application in open court as part of a judicial review of his decision triggered by Tower Hamlets Council. His planning permission has been quashed and is to be decided by a different minister.

But now the Labour Party has raised questions over how much the prime minister knew about Jenrick’s decision – and highlighted how Johnson approved a smaller, subsequently withdrawn version of the same scheme in 2016 when he was mayor of London.

The party has tabled a series of written parliamentary questions on whether meetings were held between the PM and his advisers and Jenrick’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

And Johnson’s awareness of the scheme was raised in parliament on Wednesday. At prime minister’s questions, Labour MP Judith Cummins asked: “The communities secretary has admitted unlawfully overruling his own planning inspector to allow the Westferry development to go ahead, potentially saving the developer, Richard Desmond, who is a Conservative party donor, £40m in tax.

“The secretary of state did so just weeks after sitting next to the developer at a Tory fundraising dinner.

“Given that this was the same scheme that the prime minister tried to push through when he was mayor of London and which reappeared after he entered Downing Street, will he now tell the House what conversations he has had with the secretary of state about the scheme?

“Will he publish all relevant correspondence between No.10 and the department?”

Johnson replied: “I am happy to tell her that I have had no conversations on that matter whatever, nor any exchanges of any kind.”

Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “Robert Jenrick took the extraordinary step of admitting his approval of this planning decision was unlawful – a decision that has now prompted a Metropolitan Police review

“There are concerns he did this to avoid publishing the real reasons for his decision in open court. Boris Johnson tried to help the same developer with the same scheme when he was mayor of London so the public need to know there was no undue influence from No.10 to do favours for a wealthy Tory donor.  

“Robert Jenrick must come to the House of Commons, explain the reasons for his unlawful decision and agree to publish all correspondence. We can’t allow a situation in the planning process where there’s one rule for the Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.”

In an interview last week, Jenrick said the application was decided “on its merits” and done “without any actual bias”.

He added: “But clearly the way that the process was run gave rise to some concerns and so that’s why we’ve chosen to quash the decision.”

MHCLG said last week: “While we reject the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision, we have agreed that the application will be redetermined.”

Anti-Racist Protests Grow Outside Downing Street As Boris Johnson Holds Coronavirus Press Briefing

Protesters and police came face to face outside Downing Street as thousands of people flooded central London for a Black Lives Matter demonstration in response to the death of George Floyd.

A crowd of demonstrators and officers were involved in brief scuffles, reports suggest, during a stand-off on Wednesday afternoon outside the gates of the prime minister’s residence.

Video posted on social media showed objects being thrown at police and officers scuffling with unidentified people. One reporter at the scene said it happened after police “appeared to take a protester from the crowd”.

Police officers detain a protester following a clash near Downing Street.

Yards away, Boris Johnson was giving a press briefing on the latest coronavirus updates.

Asked what his message to President Trump on behalf of the protesters outside, he said: “We mourn George Floyd and we are appalled and sickened to him.

“And my message to President Trump and everybody in the United States, from the UK, is I don’t think racism and racist violence has any place in our society.”

He added: “I do think people have a right to protest and make their feelings known about injustices such as what happened to George Floyd and I would urge people to protest peacefully and in accordance with the rules on social distancing.”

Tens of thousands of people are taking part in the demonstration, which has so far been overwhelmingly peaceful.

It’s kicking off now. Unclear exactly what started things. Police appeared to attempt to take a man from the crowd and pandemonium ensued pic.twitter.com/6XPGXV2HKt

— Mattha Busby (@matthabusby) June 3, 2020

BREAKING – Crowd confronting police outside the gates of Downing Street. Officer punched in the face, numerous objects being thrown at police now. pic.twitter.com/tJ6ZnXUcv6

— Mark White (@skymarkwhite) June 3, 2020

Protesters throwing plastic bottles as two young men are arrested. #BlackLivesMattterpic.twitter.com/GMGkG4oo5g

— Aamna Mohdin (@aamnamohdin) June 3, 2020

Scuffle breaks out outside downing Street. Tempers starting to fray but organisers succeeding in calming #BlackLivesMattter Protestors for now. #BlackLivesMattterUK#BLMLDNpic.twitter.com/1hWEu61gdg

— James Twomey (@twomey_james218) June 3, 2020

Floyd died after a white officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protest in the US.

At the London event on Wednesday, organisers provided masks and gloves to protesters who were asked to sit two metres apart unless they were from the same household.

Protesters were also told to keep their arms stretched out to ensure social distancing when moving around Hyde Park for the protest.

Protesters remained outside Downing Street chanting as a limited amount of traffic passed down Whitehall. Many climbed on to the window ledges of a neighbouring building as others talked with a line of police outside the gates to the street.

More than a dozen officers were inside the gates watching the protesters.

At one point, police have escorted a man to the side of the road who was bleeding from the head, with blood over his clothes and camera.

Later, a crowd of protesters pushed a line of police into Parliament Square, as bottles were thrown in the direction of officers.

Another crowd then followed a group of officers to outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where protesters shouted “answer for your crimes” and “no justice, no peace”.

Officers formed two lines and rested their batons on their shoulders, shouting “get back” to protesters as they separated the crowds.

READ MORE: John Boyega Gives Rousing Speech At Socially-Distanced Black Lives Matter Protest In Hyde Park

Naomi Smith, one of the event organisers of the Hyde Park event, told the PA news agency: “We want people to understand that people are dying from coronavirus and people are dying from racism.”

The 21-year-old said one of her reasons for protesting was Belly Mujinga, a railway worker who died with Covid-19 after reportedly being spat at by a man who said he was infected with the virus.

British Transport Police launched an investigation into her death but later said it would not be taking any further action.

Thousands of activists, including members of the railway worker’s family, descended on Victoria Station – where Mujinga was working at the time of the spitting incident – holding a sign that read “Justice for Belly Mujinga”.

“I think that is my main reason for this, because she’s black she doesn’t have a voice right now,” Smith said.

“This is our story, this is a UK story, this is what’s going on right now with us. George Floyd is in America, and we’re here for him as well.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Boris Johnson Tells Trump: ‘Racist Violence Has No Place In Our Society’

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Boris Johnson has underlined to Donald Trump that “racist violence has no place in our society” as the US president faces mounting criticism over his response to the killing of George Floyd.

The PM was pressed by journalists at Wednesday’s Downing Street coronavirus briefing to speak to the president. It came as crowds of protesters bearing signs saying Black Lives Matter gathered outside.  

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in Minneapolis last week after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. His killing sparked protests that have spread across the US and beyond.

Trump, meanwhile, has responded to widespread anger by threatening to call in the military to quell protests.  

Protesters throwing plastic bottles as two young men are arrested. #BlackLivesMattterpic.twitter.com/GMGkG4oo5g

— Aamna Mohdin (@aamnamohdin) June 3, 2020

 

Asked what message he would give to Trump, Johnson said: “We mourn George Floyd and I was appalled and sickened to see what happened to him and my message to president Trump, to everybody in the United States, from the UK is that I don’t think racism – and I’m sure it’s an opinion shared by an overwhelming majority of people round the world – racism and racist violence has no place in our society.” 

Asked about the demonstrations outside, Johnson added: “All I would say is that I do think that people have a right to protest, to make their feelings known about injustices such as what happened to George Floyd. 

“I would urge people to protest peacefully and in accordance with the rules on social distancing.”  

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Boris Johnson Tells People Not To Move Gatherings Indoors As Weather Worsens

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Boris Johnson has urged British people not to move outdoor gatherings inside as the weather gets cooler and wetter this week.

The prime minister on Monday eased the coronavirus lockdown to allow groups of up to six people to meet outdoors.

But with the temperature falling significantly and parts of the country seeing rain on Wednesday, he pleaded with people not to move their gatherings indoors.

Johnson also appeared to guarantee all young people an apprenticeship as he warned there would be “many, many job losses” due to the pandemic.

But first he addressed the latest lockdown rules, telling the Downing Street daily briefing: “Some of you maybe tempted to move the gatherings you’ve been enjoying outdoors indoors out of the rain. 

“I really urge you – don’t do that.

“We relaxed the rules on meeting outside for a very specific reason – because the evidence shows the risks of transmission are much lower outdoors.

“And the risks of passing on the virus are significantly higher indoors, which is why gatherings inside other people’s homes are still prohibited.

“Breaking these rules now could undermine and reverse all the progress that we’ve made together.”

Meanwhile, Johnson promised to be “interventionist” in  the economic response to the pandemic.

There will be many, many job losses

The PM said young people “should be guaranteed an apprenticeship”, given how badly they have been hit by the lockdown despite facing a lower risk of death from Covid-19

Johnson said: “Tragically there will be many, many job losses and that is just inevitable because of the effect of this virus on the economy and because of the shutdown that has taken place.

“All I can say is that in dealing with that fallout from coronavirus we will be as activist and as interventionist as we have been throughout the lockdown.”

Meanwhile, the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said there could be 8,000 new cases of coronavirus a day in the UK.

He told the briefing that while the latest figures showed more than 1,800 a day had tested positive, data from the Office for National Statistics suggested the true figure was significantly higher.

At the same time he said the R – the rate of transmission – was still close to 1 which meant the numbers were not coming down quickly.

“We have relatively large numbers still not coming down fast. That gives relatively little room for manoeuvre. We have to tread very cautiously,” he said.

He said the number of deaths was also coming down “but it is not coming down as fast as we would like it to come down”.

Vallance also warned there were examples internationally of new outbreaks of coronavirus since countries were moving towards easing their lockdowns.

“We’ve seen outbreaks reported in South Korea, there have been outbreaks reported in parts of Germany as measures have relaxed,” he said.

“So what has happened is the first peak has been suppressed and as the measures are released there is a danger that that comes back.

“There is also a risk that there is a second peak that comes as a wave goes across the world, so we are not out of this yet.

“It is good news that, as measures are being relaxed, people are generally seeing numbers continuing to go down – that is obviously what we would hope for here as the steps that are being taken cautiously, and we will be measuring to see numbers continuing to go down.”

Protesting In A Pandemic: ‘Racism Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Too’

People in the UK protesting over the death of George Floyd are more conscious of the coronavirus health threats than the government itself, a top professor has said.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black studies at Birmingham City University, spoke out against claims that large gatherings of people were risking a second spike of Covid-19, a virus that has killed more than 50,000 people in the UK so far. He said to pin a spike on the protests would be “ridiculous” given the general easing of lockdown restrictions.

A police officer killed Floyd last week by pressing a knee into his neck for almost nine minutes. The death sparked protests that have spread across the US and beyond.

Street artist Akse spray paints a mural of George Floyd in Manchester 

Andrews concedes there may be an elevated risk to those who are taking to the streets to protest – but points out that people of colour are facing a battle on two fronts: persecution over their race, and the virus, with a new government report confirming that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19.  

The study, from Public Health England (PHE), looked at the risk factors for coronavirus and found BAME individuals have a much higher risk of death than white people, as do those from poorer backgrounds, men and anyone who is obese or suffering from diabetes.

Andrews told HuffPost UK: “There have been a lot of discussions about whether we should protest – specifically because of that, because we are more at risk – but this is a really important issue. It’s important to make their voices heard and try to do so as safely as possible

“What the George Floyd killing shows us is that racism is quite simply the difference between life and death.”

From June 1, the lockdown restrictions were relaxed in England to allow up to six people from separate households to meet up in outside spaces, whilst maintaining social distancing at two metres. Outdoor markets and car showrooms have also reopened now that the rate of infection, or R value, has remained consistently, if narrowly, at or below 1.0.

According to analysis published in The Lancet this week, modelling suggests for every extra metre further away up to three metres, the risk of infection or transmission may halve. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends people maintain a distance of at least a metre between each other.

Stewards direct people as they begin to gather ahead of the Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park

Asked if it is possible to protest safely, Andrews replied: “It’s definitely difficult to maintain social distancing, but in the messages that have gone around about the protests there has been awareness of this; instructions to wear a mask and not to come if you live with somebody who is vulnerable.

“The protesters are probably working harder to shield vulnerable people than the government at this stage. Obviously it’s difficult in a protest to social distance but people are making the effort.”

Coronavirus transmission factors include congregating in confined indoor areas with others where coughing, sneezing and shouting may potentially spread infection droplets. Protesters in the UK have been photographed wearing masks and observing social distances in some settings, and stewards have even been on hand with signs urging people to self-isolate after the event. 

He added: “Given that the restrictions are being lifted and I think the evidence is pretty clear that outside transmission is lesser – given all of that and the importance of the issue, I think if people want to protest I think they are right to do so.”

Andrews also points to the scandal involving Dominic Cummings as being a factor in why people are more willing to congregate.

Professor Kehinde Andrews says protesters are taking precautions 

He said: “The restrictions have been massively relaxed here plus, with the Cummings effect, I think it would be difficult to tell people not to go into the streets and protest. It would really be a double standard I think, from the government.”

Boris Johnson has stood by Cummings, who travelled 260 miles from London to Durham during the lockdown because of concerns over who would look after his son if both he and his wife were incapacitated by coronavirus.

Durham Police concluded he might have breached the regulations by taking a further trip to the beauty spot of Barnard Castle but took no further action.

A recent YouGov poll suggested that in total 7% of Britons may have used Cummings’ actions as their justification for their own breaches of lockdown rules.

Andrews plans to attend a Black Lives Matter event in Birmingham on Wednesday.

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Hyde Park, London, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.

He said: “It wouldn’t be right to tell people that you’re not allowed to add your voice to this issue. America has the same problem, maybe a bigger problem in some ways, with the virus – and the same problem with racial disparities. And again you’re seeing lots of people out on the street, because you can’t stop everything because of the virus.

“Racism is a matter of life and death and that is why people are coming out of their houses to protest.

“Seeing the image of a Black man literally die in front of you, at the hands of the police, it’s like a tinder box. This is why people are protesting so much in the US. It’s a reminder of what racism is.

“In the UK, you are about three times more likely to die in suspicious circumstances at the hands of the police and then you think about the reason the police behave in this way – it isn’t just about the police, it’s about general devaluation of Black life.

“This protest is about all of those things. It’s not just about one person that was killed in America […]. It’s just something that brings everything together. If you look at the BLM movement, which was sparked in similar circumstances, their platform is far, far, far, far broader than just police violence. You can’t really separate police violence from everything else. It’s just the most vivid example of the problem but it’s certainly not the only problem.”

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally outside the St George's Hall in Liverpool, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.

On Wednesday prime minister Boris Johnson said he could understand the grief and anger following the death of Floyd. 

He told the Commons: “The only point I would make to the House is that protests should be carried out lawfully and in this country, protests should be carried out in accordance with our rules on social distancing.”

On Sunday, thousands of people marched across London to protest against Floyd’s death.

A reverend at a church on Trafalgar Square, where the protest started, said she was “very sympathetic” towards those marching, but expressed some concern about how close they were.

Reverend Sally Hitchiner, associate vicar at St Martin-in-the-Fields, told PA: “It’s showing there are people in the UK who care passionately about the situation in the US.

“Clearly they’re not following lockdown and social distancing, but I think there’s a huge amount of passion there and that’s overriding their concerns.

“It’s an issue that requires passion but at the same time there’s a huge amount of risk in what they’re doing.”

But would it even be possible to pin any spikes in coronavirus cases specifically to the protests?

Andrews does not think so. He said: “To highlight the protests [as the cause for a coronavirus spike] would be ridiculous.

“The way that people are going back to school, going to the beach, walking around the parks – people are out. The protests are not really separate to it. If we were in the middle of lockdown, I don’t think people would be out in the streets and you could make a stronger approach to this. People aren’t just rushing out on the street and not thinking about it.

“The government’s response has been mostly terrible but the messages have been pretty clear that it’s fine to go outside. It would be pretty impossible to trace anything back to protests.”

On Wednesday, anti-racism campaign group Stand Up to Racism is urging Britons to “take the knee” on their doorsteps at 6pm for a socially distanced protest in solidarity with protesters in the US.

Wherever you are, at 6pm on Wednesday 3 June, #TakeTheKnee +/ hold a sign on your doorstep to say #BlackLivesMatter, #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd

The millions who stand against racism must be heard.

Details: https://t.co/GXJ4eYHf6F#BlackLivesMatterUK#ICantBreathepic.twitter.com/dT70RqPz0b

— Stand Up To Racism (@AntiRacismDay) June 2, 2020

SUTR said the campaign was inspired by the kneeling protest staged by American football star Colin Kaepernick in 2016 that has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement.

SUTR’s Sabby Dhalu said: “BAME communities are suffering disproportionately from Covid-19, economic decline and police brutality.

“We call on people to ‘take the knee’ on their doorstep in solidarity with George Floyd, at 6pm, Wednesday 3 June. We stand for justice for George Floyd and say Black Lives Matter.”

A separate protest has been taking place in London’s Hyde Park on Wednesday, while a further demonstration is scheduled for 1pm on Saturday in Parliament Square.

The Met Police said its approach was to engage with protesters and encourage them to follow social distancing rules. Officers arrested 23 people in London on Sunday, at least three of them for breach of Covid-19 legislation.