Anti-racism protests involving thousands of people in London and other UK cities are "undoubtedly" at risk of increasing the number of COVID-19 cases again, UK health minister Matt Hancock said on Sunday.
Thousands of people took part in protests on Saturday to express their anger at police brutality after George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis. They ignored the government's advice to avoid large gatherings because of the risk of coronavirus.
During an interview in Sky News, asked if the number of protesters had made an increase in COVID-19 cases more likely, Hancock said: "It is undoubtedly a risk."
"I strongly support the argument put forward by the protesters … but the virus itself does not discriminate and collecting in large groups temporarily breaks the rules precisely because it increases the risk of the virus spreading."
According to current government guidelines, meetings of more than six people outside are not permitted.
John Edmunds, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergency (SAGE), said that while the risk of spreading the virus outdoors is lower, the current estimate is that approximately one in every 1,000 people in the country is infectious.
"If you have a crowd of a few thousand people, you would expect some of these people to be contagious … so there is a risk that thousands of people will gather," he told BBC TV.
With further protests scheduled for Sunday, London chief of police Cressida Dick urged the demonstrators "because of the risk of coronavirus" to "find another way to make their views heard, not to go out on the streets of London come".