Coronavirus: 'Stay at home' plea as Easter holiday starts

Skegness after lockdownImage source, John Byford
Image caption,
People do appear to be heeding warnings not to drive to visit coastal towns, like Skegness

People are being warned to stay away from England's beauty spots amid the coronavirus lockdown, despite expected warm weather as Easter looms.

Pleas have been issued from the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District down to the south coast.

Despite a "dramatic reduction" in tourist visits already, the restrictions remain in place.

In Southend-on-Sea, for example, tourism bosses have rebranded PR material "Don't Visit Southend".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it was an instruction and "not a request" to stay home this weekend.

He said that while warm weather was forecast in some areas this weekend "the disease is still spreading".

Social-distancing measures

In the Peak District, the message is that even if the sun comes out people should not travel.

Ch Insp Mark Thorley, who is in charge of policing the Staffordshire end of the Peaks, said on Twitter: "The car parks are closed and the pulling in points will quickly become places where social distancing will be difficult.

"Stay at home keep us all safe."

The advice comes amid social-distancing measures put in place by the government to try to slow the rate of coronavirus infection.

Guidelines state people should stay at home except to buy food or medicines, or to go to work.

Image source, Anglia Press Agency
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In Southwold, banners have been put up to urge those with second homes to stay away

The advice is to take limited exercise near your home, and if you go out, to stay 2m (6ft) away from other people at all times.

Police have now been given powers to fine people who gather in groups or refuse to return home - although some forces have been criticised for going too far.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson - who is still self-isolating with a symptom of the virus - has asked people to "stick with" government advice, in a video posted to Twitter on Friday.

Andy Wilson, chief executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: "We have seen a huge drop in footfall at many popular beauty spots and we want this to continue.

"We must all take responsibility for helping to slow the spread of Covid-19 and we can do this by simply staying at home and avoiding all non-essential travel."

In Southwold, banners have been put up by town councillors Simon Flunder and David Beavan to ask people to stay away.

The 3.6m (12ft) yellow signs read "Please respect us. Don't infect us" and urge those with second homes to stay away.

Tony McGinty, assistant director of public health at Lincolnshire County Council, which covers coastal areas such as Skegness, said the number of cars on the road has increased compared to earlier in the lockdown phase.

He said: "The message remains the same, do go about your essential business like food, medicine and exercise. But do not do other business.

"It is not as important as helping other people avoid the virus."

Image source, Yorkshire Dales National Park
Image caption,
Visitor numbers to the Yorkshire Dales National Park have slowed this week, tourism bosses said

Richard Leaf, chief executive officer of the Lake District National Park Authority, urged visitors to stay away.

"Enjoy your weekends at home," he said. "The Lake District will be here for you when this is all over."

An official from the Cumbrian mountain rescue teams said people have not been visiting the area.

Tourism body Visit Cornwall has released a video to encourage people not to visit over the Easter holidays, but to come back later in the year.

The video, which features images of beauty spots across Cornwall, says: "Our plans are on hold. Our dreams are paused. But good times and memories will be had again.

"So, for now, take a look from afar and know that Cornwall is here. Our culture, beauty and wonder will be waiting for you along with a lovely, warm Cornish welcome."

Another campaign - #comebacklater - has been launched to discourage people from travelling to the area during the coronavirus crisis.

Image source, Derbyshire Police
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Last week, Derbyshire Police found a group near Snake Pass enjoying a picnic
Image source, John Byford
Image caption,
Government advice is to take limited exercise near your home

In an open letter shared on Twitter, bosses in charge of London's open spaces have told the public "it is clearly not ok to have picnics, sunbathe, cycle where it is not allowed, or confront those putting themselves at risk to keep these spaces open".

Local authorities in Kent, home to beach destinations Margate, Broadstairs, Whitstable and Hythe, have also asked people to stay at home over Easter.

A spokesman for five of the county's councils said: "Please don't travel to the coast or country parks to do your exercise and certainly don't go to public places for picnics or social gatherings.

"Stay close to home, only go out with members of your own household once a day for exercise and please avoid creating a crowd.

"We're in this together and it is working. Don't stop now #kenttogether."

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