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Experts fear Mr Hancock’s actions could see the floodgates open to mass rule-breaking before the country is officially set free on July 19. As Sajid Javid was unveiled as the new man for the role, thousands were seen ignoring the rules. In Sussex, 5,000 gathered at an illegal rave on the South Downs. Rules state gatherings must not exceed 30 people, unless there is a legal exemption.Tens of thousands of maskless anti-lockdown protesters took to the streets of London for the latest Freedom March. Hundreds of revellers and hen party-goers also mixed in a drink-fuelled night out in Blackpool.
Mr Javid yesterday attempted to calm anger over his predecessor’s breach of trust by thanking him and promising to bring an end to lockdown “as soon as possible”.
He said: “I just want to start by saying I think Matt Hancock worked incredibly hard, he achieved a lot, and I’m sure he will have more to offer in public life.”
Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: “People were tiring of the rules already. Now, after the Hancock hypocrisy, there will undoubtedly be mass rule-breaking. People have had enough this time.”
The vast majority of Britons have endured an immeasurable amount of suffering throughout 15 wearisome months.
Many millions have not seen loved ones, others have been banned from seeing relatives in care homes, while some have been unable to attend funerals and weddings.
For many, learning that the country’s Health Secretary, who once said “we should all be careful, we all know the risks”, had himself ignored the rules was the final straw.
The weekend’s wild scenes came after Mr Hancock, 42, who has three children with his wife Martha, said: “I accept I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.
“I have let people down and am very sorry.”
At the time Mr Hancock was caught in a clinch with married mother-of-three Gina Coladangelo, he had only received one Covid jab.
It follows a string of scandals.
Neil Ferguson, a Government professor advising on the pandemic, was forced to resign after breaking lockdown and social distancing rules to see his married lover.
Prof Ferguson resigned from his position in May last year. And former Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings was ordered to explain his actions after being caught driving 250 miles from his home in London to his parents’ house in Durham at the height of the pandemic while experiencing Covid symptoms.
One commentator said: “Matt Hancock’s behaviour shows beyond doubt the Government did and does not believe its own propaganda.
“Oddly, almost everyone else does believe it. That is our tragedy.”
There were scenes of rule-breaking across the UK at the weekend.
Police were caught cold after thousands flocked to an unlicensed music event held in the South Downs National Park hours after Mr Hancock had resigned.
The event in Steyning, West Sussex, was still in full swing yesterday.
Sussex Police said one officer was assaulted while another was injured after a patrol car was hit by a suspected drink driver. Hundreds of cars and vans were abandoned along roads leading to the spot, causing chaos for locals.
Hundreds of officers were diverted to the scene. Last night, the force said that 23 people had been arrested for offences including drink and drug-driving, possession of drugs and theft. They were being held in custody.
Organisers of the rave, which drew a significant number from outside the area, could face £10,000 fines.
Parts of Blackpool town centre also descended into a giant party with little social distancing on show. At the end of a chaotic boozy night people were left slumped in shop doorways while others were carted off by paramedics.
Yesterday, tens of thousands piled into central London for a rave organised by pressure group Save Our Scene in protest at the impact of Covid restrictions on creative industries.
Protesters also marched on Parliament Square.
Official figures showed the UK has reported 14,876 new cases and another 11 Covid-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period.
A week ago, there were 9,284 cases and six fatalities.
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