Britons have been pictured crowding onto beaches and visiting beauty spots around the country over recent weeks, trying their best to make the most of the warm weather and their newfound freedoms following more than three months in lockdown. But many beaches have became swamped with sun-seekers, making it difficult for people to stick to Government guidance and keep a safe distance from others. England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty quickly warned cases of COVID-19 would rise again if people flouted social distancing rules.
Now a wide-ranging poll from Express.co.uk has revealed Britons are demanding action to ensure peoples’ access to the country’s beaches are restricted, with police given more powers.
The survey ran throughout the website last weekend, asking Express.co.uk readers four different questions and saw a total of 28,798 votes cast.
The first question asked: “Should access to the most popular beaches and beauty spots be restricted or stopped?”
Nearly half (48.2 percent and 13,888 readers) said restrictions should be imposed in the busiest areas, while 33.3 percent (9,595 readers) believed the busiest areas should be completely closed.
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The remaining 18.5 percent (5,315 readers) said there should be no restrictions imposed whatsoever.
Question number two asked: “Should councils and police have more powers to close down beaches and/or beauty spots and disperse people?”
Four out of five (79.8 percent or 22,990 readers) said more powers should be granted to local authorities and law enforcement, with the remaining 21.2 percent (5,808 readers) disagreeing.
The third question asked: “Do you feel comfortable going to popular beaches and beauty spots where there are lots of people?”
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A huge 70 percent (20,160 readers) opted for “I’m staying well away”, while 11.2 percent (3,216 readers) said they are still “a little uneasy”.
The remaining 13.2 percent (3,807 readers) said they are “totally comfortable” and 5.6 percent said they are “somewhat comfortable”.
And, an overwhelmingly 94.2 percent (27,120 readers) believe there should be higher-penalty litter patrols taking place to fine people dropping rubbish, with just 5.8 percent (1,678 readers) disagreeing.
Reacting to a poll on Express.co.uk on Sunday, which asked whether readers feel comfortable going to busy beaches and beauty spots, Britons are still clearly very cautious over making such a move.
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One reader said: “The only way to control COVID-19 is to control the people.”
Another commented: “I only live a five min walk from a lovely beach. I’ve only been twice this year as it’s been heaving.”
But a third person argued: “Give the police or the council extra powers and they will ALWAYS abuse them.”
While another said: “Yes, no excuses…they can’t be trusted to act in a compliant and civilised manner, spoiling it for decent proper people, who don’t treat beaches as toilets, filth tips and utter disregard for social distancing.”
Last month, thousands of people descended on Bournemouth beach and other popular areas around the coast as lockdown measures were eased.
Bournemouth council declared a major incident on June 25 after almost half-a-million people packed the beach as temperatures soared.
Police reported several incidents of anti-social behaviour when the beaches were busy, many of which involved excessive alcohol and even acts of violence.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the Government could shut beaches if the public fails to follow social distancing rules.
Asked if it was time to consider closing beaches after the incident, Mr Hancock told TalkRadio: “We do have that power, we do have that power.
“I’m reluctant to use it because you know, people have had a pretty tough lockdown, and everybody should be able to enjoy the sunshine.”
He added: “As we do have those powers, if we see a spike in the number of cases, then we will take action.”
But Downing Street later said: “Local authorities are best-placed to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis.”