Government reluctant to crack down on beach overcrowding
Following the declaration of a major incident as thousands of people descended on Bournemouth beach this week, environment secretary George Eustice has said that the government is reluctant to take the step of closing the UK’s beaches.
Eustice instead urged Brits to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines, while his cabinet colleague, health secretary Matt Hancock, took a more hard-line stance, warning that the government may opt to close beaches should the rate of transmission increase.
The comments from the two ministers echo a warning issued by England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, who warned that the rate of infection will inevitably rise should people fail to abide by the rules.
Eustice said that the government did “not want” to have “to go back in and act”, adding that any individuals visiting beaches should “observe social distancing and stay within their family”.
Eustice continued: "We just have to recognise yesterday was the hottest day of the year, incredibly hot, a lot of people had the same idea, they all went to the beach, and yes of course those scenes at Bournemouth are a matter for concern.
"The British weather being what it is, maybe that will be short-lived and people will return to the type of social distancing they've actually demonstrated quite well."
In response to this week’s scenes on the south coast, Bournemouth East’s Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood tweeted: "We need to learn from this and recognise that if we're going to be serious about tackling this pandemic then we need to be swifter in being able to provide support to local authorities that are unable to cope.”
Meanwhile, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said in a statement on Thursday that the beach was “stretched to the absolute hilt”, as the numbers descending on the area caused gridlocked roads, while some camped overnight and engaged in fighting following excessive alcohol consumption.