Families have flocked to the seaside today as large swathes of the UK are blessed with clear skies and plenty of sunshine.
While coronavirus lockdown measures still apply, Britons are now allowed to travel to tourist hotspots to picnic and sunbathe, provided they respect social distancing measures by staying two metres away from other households. Making the announcement on Sunday, May 10, Boris Johnson said: ‘From this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household.’
Some people in London were even buying takeaway drinks from pubs yesterday as the country experienced its hottest day of the year so far, with the mercury hitting 28.2°C in Santon Downham in Suffolk. Many are wondering if it’s too soon for the Government to start easing emergency restrictions, as beer drinking Brits on Brighton’s seafront argued nobody should be allowed outside because of the sheer number of visitors.
But with temperatures hitting 27°C in some parts today, many couldn’t resist heading out to soak up some rays and drink with pals, despite large crowds of people forming. Britain’s sunny spell is set to come to an end in some parts of the country today thanks to heavy rain and gusty winds.
The north-east of Scotland has already been hit by downpours and there is a chance of thunderstorms in east Anglia and south-east England, according to the Met Office. Overnight, thick rainclouds are set to sweep eastwards across Britain while winds pick up the pace.
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Potentially stormy weather tonight will clear the way for a brighter Friday morning although showers are set to continue in the north and strong winds in Northern Ireland and north-west Scotland. Winds will be strongest across the north-west of the UK, where gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour are likely, and temperatures should drop to normal for this time of year, at around 16°C to 18°C.
Met Office meteorologist Greg Dewhurst predicted a windy start to the weekend with sunshine and showers for many, with the weather gradually turning drier from the south on Sunday and into bank holiday Monday. Balmy conditions have tested the nation’s resolve in maintaining social distancing in parks and open spaces. Yesterday police in North Devon said roads to the area’s beaches were ‘gridlocked’ despite pleas to the public from councils who advise against travelling to the south west.
Police in Ilfracombe and Braunton said they had identified vehicles from ‘all over the country’ in the local area, where toilets and other amenities remain closed.
One officer said ‘valuable resources’ were being used to marshal traffic, adding that elderly people in the area would be ‘very anxious over the selfish actions of these individuals’.
In response to the relaxation of measures, leaders in Devon and Cornwall warned second home owners and tourists to ‘think twice’ about visiting the region.
Councils and tourism bodies encouraged people not to travel more than an hour from their local area to enjoy the outdoors and to avoid popular tourist locations, as the region’s car parks, toilets and hotspots remain closed.
Councillors in Southend, Essex, have blasted tourists as ‘foolish’ and ‘irresponsible’ after they left behind piles of rubbish yesterday, including Tesco bags, boxes of Corona beer and plastic toys.
They say they fear for the safety of any visitors who might come for the Bank Holiday weekend.
Labour councillor for Kursaal Matt Dent said: ‘The more I see of this, the more I fear we’re in for a second wave.
‘It isn’t Southend residents, it’s people travelling from outside the borough – as far away as Manchester, from what I’ve heard – who seem to think lockdown is lifted, and Covid-19 is no longer a threat.
‘It is a small minority who are acting in this foolish and irresponsible manner.
‘But their behaviour impacts on all of us ultimately, if there is a resurgence in infections and we find ourselves facing a second, longer, far stricter lockdown through the summer and into the autumn.’
The promenade between Chalkwell and Southend Pier has been temporarily widened to keep people socially distant while using the seafront while a contraflow system has been installed by the council, allowing cars to travel in both directions with a reduced lane width.
All parking bays along the Western Esplanade are out of use, giving the public a great deal of extra space and seafront water fountains have been turned off to dissuade visitors.
An Essex Police spokesman said: ‘There is no law to enforce social distance, it’s Government guidance. The focus for police is now narrower – on those activities which are now not lawful or which are not listed as a reasonable excuse for being outside.
‘When we come across situations like this then our approach is, and always has been, to engage with them, explain the restrictions and encourage them to do the right thing.
‘We’ve found that approach is really working. People in Essex really get what they’ve got to do and we thank them for that.
‘As a result, out of the 10,000 engagements we’ve had with the public since the restrictions came into force back in March, only a small fraction of those have had to result in enforcement.’
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