Beachgoers who crowded onto a Dorset beach at the weekend were blasted by a local MP today as he said they would be to blame if the area had to go back into a full lockdown.
Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said he was worried that idiotic scenes at picturesque Durdle Door on the south coast could see a spike in coronavirus cases in the area.
The beach was packed on Saturday, even before restrictions on gatherings outdoors were lifted yesterday to allow up to six people to gather – but socially distant from each other.
And in astonishing scenes hundreds of people were forced to cram together in a small section of beach to allow an air ambulance to land to help three people badly injured jumping from rocks.
They also had to later walk close together up the only rocky way off the beach.
Ministers have said that localised spikes in the R infection rate could see areas having their lockdown fully re-imposed, with people only allows to leave their homes for exercise in the local area.
Discussing the lockdown rules on Good Morning Britain today, Bournemouth East MP Mr Ellwood said: ‘The bigger point to be made as we ease the lockdown rules, we saw this on the coast in Dorset in Bournemouth and indeed Durdle Door, where people are operating by guidelines at work … as soon as we look at recreations, those rules go out the window.
‘I’m really concerned that Dorset is going to move up the R rating to above 1 and we will be the first place to get that second spike.’
Durdle Door beach was packed on Saturday, even before restrictions on gatherings outdoors were lifted yesterday to allow up to six people to gather – but socially distant from each other
Discussing the lockdown rules on Good Morning Britain today, Bournemouth East MP Mr Ellwood said: ‘I’m really concerned that Dorset is going to move up the R rating to above 1 and we will be the first place to get that second spike’
Handout photo issued by Dorset Police of air ambulances landed at Durdle Door on Saturday after three people were seriously injured jumping off cliffs into the sea
Figures in Doset called on the Government to take steps to limit travel to the area.
The Lulworth Estate owns five miles of Dorset coastline that includes Durdle Door beach, which saw people travel from as far away as Birmingham and Leicester.
James Weld, the estate manager, said: ‘It is clear that the restriction on travelling should have been limited to local journeys only which would not have resulted in the huge pressures being suddenly foisted on local road networks and on sites such as Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.
‘Unrestricted travel has undoubtedly lead to the unacceptable influx of visitors, despite the enormously damaging effects of restrictions on the economy and on jobs.’
And Spencer Flower, the leader of Dorset Council, said: ‘I am worried that we will see a second wave of infection here in Dorset as a result of the high number of visitors to the area over recent days.
‘I’m asking the government to act now to save the lives of Dorset residents. My plea to the government is to review the unrestricted travel guidelines currently in place and require people instead to stay local.
‘The current guidelines have a disproportionately negative effect on areas like ours which are popular with visitors but do not have the infrastructure to cope right now.’
Some senior Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson to reduce the UK’s two metre social distancing rule as they warned failure to do so could risk a wave of redundancies in the hospitality sector.
There is a growing campaign for the existing restriction to be eased to one and a half metres or even just one metre.
This would give pubs, bars, restaurants and theatres much more room for manoeuvre when they are allowed to reopen and significantly increase the number of patrons allowed in a specific premises.
That could in turn boost the financial health of businesses and stop them from having to make staff redundant because of lower revenues.
Keeping one metre apart can slash the risk of catching coronavirus by 80 per cent, according to a major study funded by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Researchers found there was roughly a 1.3 per cent chance of contracting the virus when two metres from an infected patient. But halving this gap raised the risk to only 2.6 per cent.
The sun-seekers were crammed into one area on Saturday in order to vacate the Dorset beach through the one accessible exit
Pictured: A man jumps from the 200ft ancient limestone arch at Durdle Door, Dorset on Saturday
This means the disease would spread to fewer than three in 100 people, against 13 in 100 without any social distancing at all. That equates to an 80 per cent reduction in risk.
The study showed nothing could provide complete protection, although face masks have a strong shielding effect – reducing the risk of catching the virus by up to 85 per cent.
Mr Ellwood told GMB: ‘The World Health Organization has stipulated one metre is enough, we have to question whether we can move down to one metre to make sure that we’re able to socially distance, more people can then get back to work.
‘Parliament will be aware only 50 of us can get into that chamber because of the two metre rule, that could very much change if we go down to one metre.
‘My bigger concern is at Dorset beach they weren’t even honouring the one metre rule and that will impact all the amazing work in keeping those numbers down in getting us through the peak. I’d hate to see Britain go back up.