‘They thought lockdown was over’- police chief’s concerns after hundreds head to beaches

The head of Norfolk police has expressed his disappointment after hundreds of people headed to the county’s beaches at the weekend.

Norfolk’s chief constable Simon Bailey said some people had travelled up to 80 miles to spend the day on the beach, potentially bringing Covid-19 into the county, putting lives at risk.

Some beachgoers even told his officers they thought lockdown was over.

The region had basked in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon with daily highs of over 20 degrees, tempting many to defy the law and make non-essential trips to the coast and other beauty spots.

Mr Bailey said: “For the past few weeks, up to yesterday (Saturday) lunchtime, compliance with lockdown has been really good.

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“However, north and north-west Norfolk were really busy yesterday afternoon.

“The really disappointing thing is that hundreds of people have travelled, in some cases considerable distances, to spend the afternoon on the beach.

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“After having arrived, social distancing just disappeared.

“The feedback my officers have been getting is that many people said they thought lockdown had been lifted, which is clearly not the case.

“We did our best to move people on and urged people to return to their cars and leave the area and managed the situation to the very best of our ability.”

Mr Bailey said it was disappointing some people had taken the false view that the lockdown had been lifted.

He said: “Some people had even travelled 60, 70, 80 miles to spend a day on the beach.

“They have potentially brought Covid-19 into the county and have put vulnerable and elderly people at risk and may have undone all of the really good work that has been done.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give an update to the nation on the coronavirus lockdown at 7pm today (Sunday, May 10).

The government last week signalled it would report its planned route out of lockdown today, promoting some national newspapers to print headlines such as ‘Hurrah! Lockdown freedom beckons’ and ‘First steps to freedom’.

But ministers later poured cold water on any significant changes, saying the government would instead offer a ‘roadmap’ out of the lockdown.

Robert Smith, Wells harbour master, said the harbour remained closed for recreation, but open for commercial use, including for offshore wind farm access and commercial fishing boats.

But Mr Smith said he had noticed an increase in the number of people in the town over the weekend.

He said: “My personal view is that I’ve seen a lot more people in and around the harbour and town this weekend than since the lockdown started, so I do feel that people are getting more relaxed about it. There’s been a lot more cars in the car parks.

“Our advice is, please be patient. Stay away for now, but please come back when lockdown is over.”

Terry Jermy, a Norfolk, Breckland and Thetford town councillor, said: “I think there’s been good compliance across Thetford. It’s been great to see people decorating their homes and having mini parties for VE Day from their front gardens whilst still social distancing. There’s of course always some that don’t follow the rules but on the whole Thetford residents are adhering to the advice.”

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Cromer Coastguard station officer Mark Bonnett said although there had been people taking advantage of the sunny weather by venturing outdoors, they had been sticking to social distancing guidelines including the two-metre rule.

He said: “It has been busy, but people have been complying with the distancing rules.”

People in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth appeared to be largely adhering to the social distancing during walks along the beach and promenade, while there were social media reports over the weekend of supermarkets in the Beccles area being particularly busy.

With the Lowestoft Central Project and the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership decorating Lowestoft railway station with patriotic red, white and blue bunting to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, a spokesman for the Lowestoft Central Project said: “Lowestoft station remained relatively quiet over the VE Day bank holiday weekend and it was good to see that the majority of the few people travelling by train were key workers.”

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