People are flocking to South Carolina’s beaches for vacation after being cooped up by COVID-19 for months. But the coronavirus is taking no vacation. The state now has the fourth-highest new infection rate in the nation. (June 23)
Three beach towns on England’s southern coast declared a “major incident” Thursday after thousands defied coronavirus social-distancing rules and flocked to the shore on what has been the hottest day of the year in the United Kingdom so far, with temperatures in the low 90s.
“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” Vikki Slade, leader of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said in a statement on their website. “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.”
The decision to declare a “major incident,” as Slade said, gives additional powers to local authorities and emergency services to tackle the issue. She said they are also “deploying additional resources to provide increased patrols in the vicinity to help tackle any issues of anti-social behavior and other offenses being committed.”
BCP said the police and other resources were were “completely overstretched” as people sought the sanctuary of the seaside on a day meteorologists confirmed as the hottest of 2020, with temperatures reaching nearly 92℉ at London’s Heathrow Airport. Visitors camped illegally, racked up hundreds of tickets for illegal parking and left behind 83,000 pounds of trash in their wake.
Bournemouth resident Alex Rimell tweeted a series of photos of the waste left behind.
“This morning down Bournemouth Beach. One simple thing is to take your rubbish home if the bin there is full,” he wrote, chastising beachgoers.
This morning down Bournemouth Beach. One simple thing is to take your rubbish home if the bin there is full. 🗑
Today, is meant to be hotter. So if you’re visiting the beach today, tomorrow, this weekend or any other day ever, take your rubbish home! 🏠 #BournemouthBeach#beachpic.twitter.com/HL8xAbvGGJ
— Alex Rimell 💁🏽♂️ (@Alex_Rimell28) June 25, 2020
Extra police patrols were brought in and security was put in place to protect garbage collectors who the council said faced “widespread abuse and intimidation” as they emptied overflowing bins. Local roads, which were clogged into the early hours, now have signs alerting people that the area is full, according to the council.
Tobias Ellwood, a conservative member of parliament representing Bournemouth East, tweeted that roads were gridlocked in Dorset, the county in which Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are located, due to the crowding on the beaches. He asked that people stay away.
“‘MAJOR INCIDENT’ declared in BOURNEMOUTH – pls stay away,” he wrote. “With 1/2 million visitors in Dorset, roads are gridlocked, hindering emergency vehicles & beaches are full – with Dispersal Orders on both piers. I’ve asked Police Minister to dispatch additional police if Dorset requests.”
‘MAJOR INCIDENT’ declared in BOURNEMOUTH – pls stay away.
With 1/2 million visitors in Dorset, roads are gridlocked, hindering emergency vehicles & beaches are full – with Dispersal Orders on both piers.
I’ve asked Police Minister to dispatch additional police if Dorset requests pic.twitter.com/YnSpfdXOLc
— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) June 25, 2020
“These are unprecedented times and we are urging people to stay away from the area of Bournemouth Beach and other Dorset beaches,” Sam de Reya, assistant chief constable of the Dorset Police, said in the council’s statement.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave notice that a number of the lockdown restrictions will be eased beginning July 4, including allowing pubs and restaurants to reopen. He also effectively announced that the two-meter (6.5-foot) social distancing rule will be reduced to a meter (around three feet) from that date on, a move that is largely aimed at bolstering businesses.
The relaxation has met with a lot of criticism, at a time when the U.K. is still recording relatively high new coronavirus infections and deaths.
In a tweet, “Good Morning Britain” host Piers Morgan juxtaposed a quote from Johnson saying, “I trust the British people to use their common sense” with a photo of the packed beach, implying that that trust was misplaced.
As of Thursday afternoon, the U.K. had upwards of 309,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 43,314 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.
“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 services resources,” said de Reya.
Similar incidents have occurred stateside as people flocked to reopening beaches in Florida and crowded into vacation destinations like Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day Weekend, sparking worries that a surge might follow. Cases are on the way back up in several states with coastlines, such as Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington state and Texas.
Health officials are already asking Americans to socially distance over the July 4th holiday, saying that they are “concerned” about the surge in coronavirus cases after the U.S. on Wednesday saw its highest daily number of new cases in months.
Do it for your loved ones: CDC urges Americans to socially distance July 4th as cases surge
Contributing: Grace Hauck and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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