England’s council bosses have increased the number of Covid marshals enforce social distancing rules after scenes of overcrowding outside pubs and restaurants.

Revellers across the country have toasted their freedom after lockdown restrictions were eased on 12 April, but local authority leaders in London and Manchester are worried about compliance.

Large crowds have gathered in the evenings in the capital’s Soho area, with witnesses saying “very little” social distancing had taken place.

Pictures and videos shared online on Monday showed people packed onto tables laden with food and drinks, while others stood together drinking on the streets as pubs reopened.

Westminster City Council said it had brought back 50 Covid marshals to make sure both customers and businesses in London’s west end are complying with the rules.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware of isolated incidents of crowding in Soho. The council is working with the police and businesses in the area to ensure that they are operating responsibly.”

Manchester City Council has put eight Covid marshals out on the streets this week, from 8am to 8pm, and an additional 14 licensing team officers working until 2am.

Large numbers gathered in the city’s popular Northern Quarter when pubs reopened on Monday, but the council said there were only a few instances of people having to be reminded of the rules.

Pubs in England are now allowed to serve customers seated outdoors, but drinkers must remain in groups of up to six people, or in a group of two households of any size.

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Police seen in Soho monitoring pubs’ reopening

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Police seen in Soho monitoring pubs’ reopening

(Getty Images)

Boris Johnson announced last autumn that Covid marshals would help councils “encourage” the public to comply with the latest regulations, but they have been largely absent since the winter lockdown began.

Unlike the police, marshals have no enforcement powers, but they can report any breaches of the rules to forces or councils.

While some councils have recruit Covid marshals, others have redeployed existing staff from other departments, such as trading standards.

A government spokesperson said: “We have given councils an extra £400m to manage local outbreaks and recruit Covid marshals, whilst also providing additional funding to help high streets welcome back customers.”

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