Fears Dorset could go back into lockdown as day-trippers flock to beaches

Fears have been sparked that Dorset could become the first county in England to suffer a second coronavirus spike and go back into full lockdown, as crowds of tourists continue to flock to beaches.

Boris Johnson has been urged to ‘act now to save the lives of Dorset residents’ with the south-west recently estimated to have an R rate of 0.9 – the highest in the country.

The relaxation of restrictions means people can now enjoy day trips as long as they follow social distancing rules – but the leaders of the two local authorities in Dorset have written to the prime minister asking him to limit travel to within home counties.

In a letter, Spencer Flower, the leader of Dorset Council, said current lockdown rules have ‘a disproportionately negative effect on areas like ours’.

He wrote: ‘I am worried that we will see a second wave of infection here in Dorset as a result of the high number of visitors to the area over recent days.

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‘I’m asking the government to act now to save the lives of Dorset residents.

‘My plea to the government is to review the unrestricted travel guidelines currently in place and require people instead to stay local.

‘The current guidelines have a disproportionately negative effect on areas like ours which are popular with visitors but do not have the infrastructure to cope right now.’

Vikki Slade, the leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, has thrown her support behind the ban, revealing that abuse of local council officers has been on the rise since restrictions were eased.

She said: ‘Since the government eased lockdown and let people travel wherever they wanted it has been a disaster for us.

‘We have seen crowds on our beaches, in large groups clearly not from the same household, we have had council officers spat at, abused and intimidated as they go about their work.

‘I have written to all our local MPs asking them to lobby the government to restrict people travelling to within their county or post code boundary.’

James Weld, the manager of the Lulworth Estate, which owns five miles of Dorset coastline, also said it is ‘clear the restriction on travelling should have been limited to local journeys only’.

He noted the ‘huge pressures suddenly foisted’ on local road networks and on sites such as Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door by the ‘unacceptable influx of visitors’.

It comes after Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, told Good Morning Britain he feared that Dorset could move up to an R number of above 1, as recreational activities send ‘rules out the window’.

Matt Hancock has warned local lockdowns are possible if Covid-19 flares up again in certain areas.

Speaking during Monday’s daily press conference, the health secrestary said taking ‘local action’ in response to a new outbreak is an ‘incredibly important’ part of the government’s strategy for keeping the pandemic at bay.

Professor John Newton, leader of the government’s coronavirus testing programme, added that outbreak control in different areas of the country ‘is likely to be used’.

He continued: ‘This is what we see in other countries as well, that coronavirus flares up in certain areas so, as the Secretary of State has described, there’s a range of public health measures.

‘It’s really a whole system response so each area has, as well as the the director of public health working for the local authority, a local resilience for where all the other public services, fire service, police and so on also contribute and look at measures that might be taken.

‘It’s likely that the outbreaks will occur in certain areas and therefore one of the things required is what we call mutual aid, where an area has to close a certain unit, maybe an element of healthcare or social care, other elements can come into help them.’

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