No mass Easter getaway but some still head to tourist resorts

There was no mass Easter getaway on Thursday but some people did travel to tourist hotspots in contravention of lockdown rules.

Road traffic levels were similar to those seen in the past week, indicating that most people stayed at home on what is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year for leisure travel.

Analysis by the PA news agency of data published by satellite navigation company TomTom showed there was no spike in congestion in cities such as Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester.

At 5pm, the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions was between 15% and 20% for the five cities.

A composite photo of the M3 motorway near Winchester, Hampshire on Thursday (bottom) and on the Thursday before Easter 2019 (top) (Andrew Matthews/Steve Parsons/PA)
A composite photo of the M3 motorway near Winchester, Hampshire, on Thursday (bottom) and on the Thursday before Easter 2019 (top) (Andrew Matthews/Steve Parsons/PA)

On the Thursday before last year’s Easter weekend, the figures ranged from 47% in Cardiff to 76% in Edinburgh.

TomTom traffic expert Stephanie Leonard said: “There’s definitely less traffic on the roads. There is quite a significant drop.

“Easter weekend is always a popular weekend to go away to visit friends and family or to go on holiday. It’s a completely different picture today.”

An AA survey carried out shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic began suggested that around 26 million leisure journeys by road had been planned for the Easter weekend.

Heathrow Airport was much quieter ahead of Easter 2020 compared with last year (Steve Parsons/PA)
Heathrow Airport was much quieter ahead of Easter 2020 compared with last year (Steve Parsons/PA)

The vast majority of these trips are no longer taking place, but some people were caught not adhering to the lockdown guidance.

Cumbria Police said they caught several people travelling to the Lake District from outside the area.

These include a group who “decided it was too nice to stay in Bolton” and two men from Yorkshire who “chose to head to Windermere for a spot of canoeing”.

Those caught by police were encouraged to go home.

Annie Willey, brand manager of the Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation, which represents local tourism companies, said residents have seen an “awful lot” of second home owners coming to the area recently, particularly in Aldeburgh and Southwold.

Ms Willey said anyone visiting over Easter was giving a “slap in the face” to businesses which had battled “stress and pressure” to close their doors because of the virus.

Cornwall Council said it had received around 200 reports from residents that holiday lets are defying the Government order to close.

Airbnb blocked UK properties from accepting new bookings from Thursday up to at least April 18 unless they are for key workers.

Rail companies Northern and TransPennine Express have joined forces with British Transport Police to launch a campaign reminding people it is “not acceptable” to use services for leisure activities this weekend.

There will be an increased presence of police officers at popular stations over the weekend.

Whilst the #Easter weekend will bring some warm sunshine, there will also be heavy showers with temperatures dropping pic.twitter.com/SAy1vuh3rd

— Met Office (@metoffice) April 9, 2020

Many of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions are offering a variety of virtual Easter activities to keep people busy while staying at home.

These include experiments by the Science Museum, services at Durham Cathedral, cookery suggestions from Waddesdon Manor and a scavenger hunt from the National Trust.

The Met Office said the Easter weekend would get off to a warm start before gradually becoming cooler.

Temperatures could reach up to 25C (77F) in southern areas on Good Friday, with the risk of some showers in parts of Scotland, the North East and the Midlands by the afternoon.

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