With people in England able to drive anywhere in the country to take their exercise from tomorrow as part of the first easing of lockdown rules, tourism bodies and council bosses are telling non-locals to stay away, with one saying that it is “shocked” at the government’s decision.
People are urged to keep away from areas including Cumbria and the Peak District, both of which are hugely popular with cyclists from nearby towns and cities as well as those from farther afield.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the partial softening of lockdown arrangements in an address to the nation on Sunday.
As well as being able to drive to outdoor spaces, no matter the distance, people can also exercise with one person who is not a member of their household, provided social distancing is observed.
> Q+A: What has changed for cyclists riding for exercise in Great Britain after the latest lockdown restriction announcements?
In normal times, Cumbria Tourism would be using social media to try and attract visitors to the Lake District, but it the county is one of the hardest-hit parts of England by COVID-19.
Some 2,115 cases have been recorded in Cumbria to date, making it the seventh most affected local authority area. It has 424 cases per 100,000 population, which puts it in sixth place, all of those above it being in urban areas – four in the north east, plus the London Borough of Brent.
On Sunday evening, the tourism agency posted on Twitter to say it was “shocked by the timing and short notice of tonight’s announcement.”
It added that “the safety of residents must come first,” and that “for now, tourism businesses in Cumbria remain closed and we urge everyone to continue to Stay Home.”
That partial lifting of restrictions was confirmed yesterday in the Recovery Strategy document, which said: “People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there, because this does not involve contact with people outside your household.”
It added: “When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.”
In a statement yesterday, Cumbria Tourism’s managing director, Gill Haigh, welcomed the government’s ‘roadmap’ to recovery, highlighting that the loss to the area’s visitor economy would stand at £1.45 billion by the end of the month.
“However,” she said, “with Cumbria continuing to have one of the highest incidences of Coronavirus per head of population and a high number of older residents, the safety of local residents must take absolute top priority, along with a collective responsibility to help protect Cumbria’s NHS workers.
“We were genuinely surprised by the government announcement regarding travel to destinations for exercise.”
She added: “We look forward to seeing our visitors return when the time is right, for now our tourism businesses remain closed and Cumbria Tourism asks for everyone to continue to remain at home.”
Her appeal to people to stay home and not visit beauty spots for their exercise has been repeated by tourist bodies and officials across England and beyond.
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of The Peak District National Park, which lies close to major cities including Manchester and Sheffield, asked people to “please carefully consider your own wellbeing and that of the Peak District’s many small communities” before travelling there.
She highlighted that most of the park’s amenities – including visitor centres, bike hire facilities, car parks, and public toilets are closed until further notice.
“Continuing to use local parks and outdoor areas close to your home can continue to provide the crucial breathing space for you and for us, to ensure the Peak District can be a safe and welcoming place to visit in the weeks to come,” she continued.
“In this way we can ensure we don’t place undue pressure on public highways, emergency access or key workers.
“With around 2,000 Covid-19 cases across Derbyshire alone and local services and resources already fighting on a significant front, is it vital that we limit the impacts on our residential towns and villages wherever possible,” she added.
Meanwhile, the leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, said that would-be visitors, including second-home owners, needed to continue to stay away from the region.
Devon, as well as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, are two of the five local authority areas least affected by the coronavirus in terms of cases per 100,000 population, at 98 and 97 respectively.
Councillor Hart, quoted on Devon Live, said: “We will have to be particularly careful in the South West that we don't see a spike in infections.
"Thanks to the common sense and cooperation of the vast majority of our citizens, we have remained the lowest region in the country for infections throughout this pandemic.
"That must continue as we begin to see the economy start to rev up again - safely - whilst our residents can have some idea of how we can begin to move slowly out of lockdown.
"It is vital to get our economy going again but we must do this slowly and surely to avoid any second or subsequent spikes which would see us plunged back into an even more severe lockdown,” he continued
"Because of that danger, I would renew my appeal to holidaymakers and second homeowners to stay away from Devon especially as they are still forbidden from staying overnight. But we will be delighted to see you as soon as it is safe for you to visit.”
Meanwhile, police forces in Wales, where restrictions on movement were already stricter than they were in England even before Sunday’s announcement by the Prime Minister, are gearing up to turn away would-be visitors from England.
Carmarthenshire Police handed out more than 200 fines over the bank holiday weekend to people found to have been breaking lockdown restrictions, reports Wales Online.
Among those fined were a family of five who had made a 200-mile round trip by car from Warwickshire to go to the beach, as well as a family of four from Northamptonshire who “fancied a spin” and were told to go home by police in Carmarthen and were then stopped again later on even further west.
Inspector Williams of the force’s roads policing unit said: “After being reported and advised to turn around, they were stopped again in Pembrokeshire, which was their original destination. This time they told officers they had got lost.
“They were once again directed in no uncertain terms to return home, and were further reported.”
Speaking about the bank holiday weekend generally, he added: “Unfortunately, we have come across people who have travelled hundreds of miles into the force area for non-essential reasons. We would like to remind people that travel in Wales is still only for essential purposes.”
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