UK beaches swamped as heatwave and Brits ignore Covid-19 rules

Crowds on the beach on June 25 2020 at Southend-on-Sea, southern England, during a summer heatwave.
Crowds on the beach on June 25 2020 at Southend-on-Sea, southern England, during a summer heatwave.
Image: GETTY IMAGES/ JOHN KEEBLE

Authorities in Bournemouth, a popular beach town in southern England, declared a “major incident” on Thursday over what they called the irresponsible behaviour of crowds that  ignored public-health guidance on the coronavirus and badly overstretched local services.

The declaration came after visitors arrived in very large numbers in a spell of hot weather, resulting in gridlock on the roads, illegal overnight camping, excessive waste, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fueled fights.

The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe

“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” said council leader Vikki Slade in a statement. “The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.”

Social-distancing measures have been in place in Britain since March to slow the spread of Covid-19, though the rules are due to be significantly relaxed from July 4.

With pubs still closed, many people have been heading to parks and beaches to meet friends and drink alcohol, in some cases ignoring advice to keep 2m apart.

In Bournemouth, roads were obstructed by illegal parking, crews were abused as they attempted to empty overflowing bins, and 33 tonnes of waste had to be removed from the stretch of coastline in and around the town on Thursday morning.

The emergency response will involve extra police patrols, security to protect rubbish collectors, additional parking enforcement, evictions of unauthorised campers, and signage on approach roads warning people not to come.

“We strongly advise members of the public to think twice before heading to the area,” said Sam de Reya of the local police force. “Clearly we are still in a public-health crisis and such a significant volume of people heading to one area places a further strain on emergency service resources.” — Reuters


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