As government eases lockdown, local councils are urging people to keep away from UK beaches over bank holiday weekend

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Local councils are urging the public to stay away from beaches over the bank holiday weekend, when England is expected to bask in dry, sunny weather.

Pictures of crowds flocking to beaches in Brighton and Southend in recent days have raised fears over social distancing. Councils with responsibility for beauty spots around England are therefore warning people to stay away.

The Canary has previously reported on the issues caused by people visiting seaside towns – some of which have less capacity to deal with outbreaks of coronavirus (Covid-19).

‘Stay alert’

Following the easing of some lockdown measures last week, there are no restrictions on how far people can travel to get to the countryside, national parks, and beaches in England.

 

The Met Office is forecasting that temperatures could reach highs of 26C in London on Monday 25 May, with coastal areas likely to see highs of around 20C.

Councillor Carmen Appich, from Brighton & Hove City Council, has urged anyone thinking of travelling to the city “to consider very carefully how their journey will impact on others”.

Hastings Borough Council, meanwhile, has closed the area “to visitors from outside the town”.

Coronavirus – Thu May 21, 2020
People enjoy the hot weather at Whitley Bay beach in Tyneside (PA)

Holidaymakers are similarly being told by the Isle of Wight Council that their “clear advice” is they should stay away.

Lifted restrictions

After pictures showed crowds at Southend in Essex earlier this week, the council’s leader said the easing of lockdown restrictions has put the council in a “very difficult position”.

Councillor Ian Gilbert said on Friday:

For many weeks we ran a successful Don’t Visit Southend campaign, but the Government’s lifting of restrictions have put us in a very difficult position as day trips and sunbathing are allowed, and takeaways can be open for business.

After seeing the number of people who headed to its coastline this week, Sefton Council in Merseyside has adopted a new campaign ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

“Wish you weren’t here!” is the council’s take on the picture postcard message it’s sending to people thinking of travelling to its beaches.

People are also being advised not to visit Blackpool to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The leaders of three local authorities bordering Morecambe Bay have also asked people to think twice before visiting the area.

Hazards

In Cornwall, council leaders have warned there’s no lifeguard cover and a large coastal swell and spring tide will bring hazardous sea conditions over the weekend.

Rob Nolan, cabinet member for environment and public protection at Cornwall Council, said people shouldn’t be holidaying in Cornwall and must return to their “principle residence” each night.

Devon County Council asked people to “think twice” about visiting the coast and to consider if they could remain closer to home.

The National Trust is urging people across England to stay close to home and explore local green spaces and countryside this weekend, as part of the collective effort to make easing of the lockdown work.

Government messaging

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, home secretary Priti Patel said:

It is inevitable that obviously the public will be out and about a lot more, but of course our message is clear to the public – yes, enjoy being outdoors, we have encouraged people to go out, but we have put a very clear caveat around that.

This is all conditional. You can enjoy being outdoors in the sun providing you are following the advice and we continue to stop and contain the spread of the infection.

Meanwhile, secretary of state for Wales Simon Hart said the different approaches taken by England and Wales would “increase the likelihood” of people breaking lockdown rules over the bank holiday weekend.

Asked if he thought people were likely to break the rules, Hart told the PA news agency:

Anything which suggests that there’s a different set of rules one side of the border to the other will increase the likelihood that that is possible, and there have been some examples of people being pulled in when coming into Wales who didn’t realise it was a different regime.

But the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said he believed the “vast majority” of people were complying with the lockdown rules in place in Wales.

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