Police who discovered a barbecue being attended by more than 20 people just a day after the country was put on lockdown have described the scene as “unbelievable”.

Officers tipped over the outdoor cooker after the revellers initially refused to disperse, despite temporary new laws preventing such social gatherings.

The measures have been introduced in a bid to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

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The incident in Coventry came to light after the city’s Foleshill Police team tweeted a picture of the remains of the gathering on Tuesday afternoon.

The group – including both toddlers and people in their 60s – were stood “shoulder to shoulder around a buffet" taking place in a housing precinct, officers reported.

And, when told to disperse, one woman replied that her children had to eat.

“She could not explain,” a spokesperson for West Midlands Police later said, “why she wasn’t cooking for them at home in her kitchen”.

They added: “Officers felt they needed to end the gathering by tipping over the BBQ and insisting the group dispersed to their homes.

“It’s vital everyone follows the new lockdown instructions. They are essential and will save lives.”

In London, crowds of people defied the lockdown measures to subathe in public parks.

Police chased groups of friends out of Shepherd’s Bush Green, telling them ‘this is not a holiday, it’s a lockdown’.

Strict new measures, announced by Boris Johnson on Monday, ban public gatherings of more than two people.

Under new powers, police will “persuade, cajole, negotiate and advise” people that they should not be outdoors except in limited circumstances and should not be mixing with others. But if such advice goes unheeded, officers will be able to issue fines.

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