Coastal towns tell visitors to stay away as lockdown eases in England

Britain’s coastal resorts have told visitors to stay away amid concerns that people may be drawn to the seaside as the weather improves and the lockdown is eased in England.

The tourism body for Blackpool has rebranded as Do Not Visit Blackpool in an attempt to discourage visitors after new guidance came into force on Wednesday allowing people in England to “travel to open space, irrespective of distance”.

Simon Blackburn, the leader of Blackpool council, said the UK government’s new message meant there was “nothing we can do” to stop visitors but he urged people to stay away.

R, or the ‘effective reproduction number’, is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread. It’s the average number of people on to whom one infected person will pass the virus. For an R of anything above 1, an epidemic will grow exponentially. Anything below 1 and an outbreak will fizzle out – eventually.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the estimated R for coronavirus was between 2 and 3 – higher than the value for seasonal flu, but lower than for measles. That means each person would pass it on to between two and three people on average, before either recovering or dying, and each of those people would pass it on to a further two to three others, causing the total number of cases to snowball over time.

The reproduction number is not fixed, though. It depends on the biology of the virus; people’s behaviour, such as social distancing; and a population’s immunity. A country may see regional variations in its R number, depending on local factors like population density and transport patterns.

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent

He said the coastal resort, where millions of holidaymakers have flocked since the middle of the 18th century, would seek to reopen in July but until then people should stay local.

He added: “None of the traditional attractions that you want to see will be open, you won’t be able to get the food you usually get, or do the things you can normally do.”

The North Yorkshire seaside towns of Whitby and Scarborough also feared a deluge of visitors, said the Conservative MP Robert Goodwill.

He said he had been contacted by residents concerned about the prospect of tourists visiting this week, and added: “I would remind people that the toilets are closed, the car parks are closed, Whitby and Scarborough are not accepting visitors at this time.”

There are particular concerns that seaside resorts and national parks across England could be inundated with visitors this weekend as the weather improves.

Over-60s make up about a third of the population in most of these coastal resorts, according to the 2011 census.

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New rules permitting day trips to outdoor open spaces in England came into force on Wednesday, with no limit on the distance allowed to be travelled. The full “stay at home” lockdown restrictions remain in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ruth Goldstein, from Cornwall council’s public health team, said on Wednesday physical distancing was “absolutely paramount” and “the idea that Cornwall isn’t open to tourism is absolutely right”.

She added: “We need to do everything that we can to keep our population safe and well and everyone’s been doing that really well in Cornwall by taking the government’s advice on lockdown. We really don’t want to see now an influx of people from all over the country.”

Celia Barnes, who lives in Skegness, Lincolnshire, said she had been shielding for nine weeks and had not left her home – yet now tourists were being allowed to visit her town.

She said: “I haven’t even seen my grandchildren who live in Skegness. Now the beach is going to be open. How is this fair that we will be inundated with people flocking to the beach who might have the virus?”

The stay away message from seaside towns follows a similar warning from the national parks, such as Snowdonia and the Welcome to Yorkshire agency.

In the Lake District, police said people should “take a long hard look at your own conscience” before travelling to the national park.


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