HUNDREDS of people ignored Government advice on social distancing and headed to a Basingstoke shopping centre at the weekend.

As the Government advised people to keep two metres between each other, shoppers in Festival Place packed into the centre on Saturday.

However, since the weekend dozens more shops in the centre have now closed their doors, bringing the total number of shut shops and restaurants to 79.

On Friday the number of closed stores and eating venues was 34.

The centre faced criticism on social media for advertising the eating establishments offering takeaway service, which may have contributed to drawing crowds there on Saturday.

Amanda Berringer said: “I’m sad to say it but until Festival Place closes, people will continue shopping and ignoring the #StayHomeSaveLives advice.”

Daren Bavister added: “Maybe rewrite your press release. Thank you to those retailers acting responsibly for their staff and customers in closing their stores until this pass and it will. We sincerely hope others will follow suit shortly.”

Centre director, Neil Churchill, has now urged shoppers to “heed Government advice about social distancing”.

He added: “In these very strange and unprecedented times we want to reassure you that nothing is more important to us than the health and wellbeing or all our customers, retailers and staff.

“Things are changing rapidly and we’re closely monitoring the day-to-day advice from the Government and health officials and are acting on that. As a walkway through the town, for the time being at least, we remain open. Following national guidelines, our cafes and restaurants are now closed, with some offering a takeaway service. Some retailers have also taken the decision to temporarily close.

“We take pride in our hygiene standards and have placed special hand sanitiser points throughout the centre. We continue to sanitise all surfaces regularly, on a strict rotation and are of course reinforcing the need for thorough hand washing.

“While Festival Place remains open, we urge any visitors to be responsible and heed Government advice about social distancing and vigilant hand washing – our priority must be to look after each other.”