Public urged to stay at home despite warm start to Easter weekend

People have been urged to heed instructions that they should stay at home over Easter, amid fears that a warm start to the weekend could see lockdown rules broken.

There were encouraging signs on Thursday that the public were largely following the strict guidelines, with traffic levels showing an absence of a mass weekend getaway.

Councils across the UK have warned anyone planning weekend trips that they can expect to be turned away by police.

Tourist hotspots have also said holidaymakers and second homeowners are not welcome during the Easter weekend.

Despite the warnings, police did catch some making journeys in contravention of the rules on Thursday.

In Cumbria, police said they caught several people heading to the Lake District from outside the area.

Officers encouraged those caught to go home, including two men from Yorkshire who “chose to head to Windermere for a spot of canoeing”.

At the other end of the country, John Hart, leader of Devon County Council, said police had been turning around holidaymakers travelling with caravans or motorhomes on the A38.

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

Annie Willey, brand manager of the Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation, which represents local tourism companies, said anyone visiting hotspots 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.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Simon Byrne said on Thursday that nearly 100 community resolution notices had been issued.

He said there would be increased patrols at car parks and beauty spots this Easter.

Dr David Rosser, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham, said he was “nervous” people will put pressure on the health system by flouting the Covid-19 lockdown over Easter.

He urged people to stick to the rules and not be “falsely reassured” about the apparent effectiveness of measures to date.

According to an analysis of data published by satellite navigation company TomTom, there was no spike in congestion in cities such as Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester on Thursday.

Authorities will be hoping travel figures remain low as the bank holiday begins.

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.

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

For those seeking to exercise outside, national clinical director for Scotland Jason Leitch has urged them to do it near their home and for no more than an hour.

He said people should avoid long journeys and only travel by car “if it is unavoidable”.

Coronavirus – Thu Apr 9, 2020
Officers talk to members of the public at a park in Northampton, as police announce they are toughening up their social distancing enforcement (Joe Giddens/PA)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned earlier on Thursday that now was not time to give up the lockdown measures.

He said: “The British people have really come behind this, we shouldn’t be giving up this Easter weekend, that is the number one thing.”

Emma Salter, meteorologist at the Met Office, said that Good Friday will bring hazy sunshine across England and Wales, while Scotland will be cloudy with outbreaks of rain at times.

On Saturday, temperatures in London could reach up to 26C, before conditions more widely begin to cool going in to Sunday where some heavy showers could be expected.

Ms Salter urged people to follow the Government’s advice to avoid all non-essential travel over the weekend.

She added: “Despite the warm weather, stay at home and only go out when you have to.”

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