Late last night the Government updated its travel guidance to urge Brits to abandon any trips to holiday homes, caravan parks and other holiday premises within the UK.
Over the weekend, a number of people had contacted the Countryside Alliance teams, especially in Scotland and Wales, to express concern over this very issue.
Pictures from over the weekend on social media & in the news saw thousands of people visiting their favourite rural locations, in a bid to get out of big towns and cities & into the countryside.
In a short statement, the Government said: “This guidance is for people planning to visit second homes or holiday premises during the pandemic. Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”
Edward Rowlandson, Head of Political Relations at the Countryside Alliance said “While normally the Countryside Alliance is massively supportive of people exploring our beautiful rural hot-spots, the official guidelines on containing the spread of this awful virus couldn’t be clearer. We need people to stay at home to save lives. Sadly, this weekend made it clear many people are not listening. We support the Government’s attempt to limit the spread of this virus in rural areas.”
He added “We know that many rural healthcare facilities are already under huge pressure as it is. We cannot face a situation where they are further strained because people are coming to the countryside in large numbers, while unknowingly spreading this virus. Please stay at your primary residence, for your own safety. Don’t put yourself at risk. It's important to remain at home, where you have your own support networks and access to local healthcare. ”
Over the weekend, several sites across England have taken the decision to close due to volume of visitors and the need for social distancing. These now include National Trust and Royal Botanic gardens.
The Scottish Government are legislating the movement of people, by introducing the restrictions on ferry passengers to the island communities.
Jamie Stewart, Scottish Countryside Alliance Director said “NHS resources in the Highlands and Islands are geared to meet the demands of the local populations. Inappropriate visitation to these and other rural areas at this time could seriously impact on the ability of medical and care workers to deal with the health demands from the local inhabitants. Please follow Scottish Government guidance in relation to self-isolation and social distancing. Please don’t place your own health and that of others at risk. Unless urgent, please stay at home”.
Rhian Nowell-Phillips, our Welsh Director said “There has been increasing concern about the shift of people coming into Wales to enjoy the countryside as the weather improves and crucially, to avoid Covid-19. This has created anxiety in some rural and coastal areas. Assembly Members have already expressed concern about the risks associated with the sheer volume of visitors. The Welsh Government has warned second-home owners and caravanners they could face action by ignoring advice not to travel unnecessarily and is now considering further restrictions.”
For further information on Covid-19, please see the Government website.