As the UK’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions have eased, Britain’s beaches have seen a huge influx in visitors. People have flocked to the coast in their thousands to make the most of the scorching temperatures and easing of the rules. But many beaches soon became swamped with sun-seekers, making it impossible for people to stick to Government guidance and keep a safe distance from others.
The large number of beachgoers prompted England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty to warn cases of COVID-19 would rise again if people flouted social distancing rules.
The sunny weather and scorching temperatures are set to return next week, prompting fears Britons will once again flock to the coast in their thousands.
As a result, Express.co.uk is asking whether you think councils and police should have more powers to close down beaches and/or beauty spots and disperse people?
It comes after the chaos seen at Bournemouth beach, and other popular areas of the coast in recent weeks.
Bournemouth council were forced to declare a major incident on June 25 after almost half-a-million people packed the beach on the hottest day of the year.
Should councils and police be given powers to shut beaches and disperse people?
Coronavirus UK: Bournemouth council declared a major incident after thousands flocked to the coast
The huge surge in visitors prompted a nationwide outcry, as pictures of the beach showed huge crowds with the golden sands barely visible.
Bournemouth Council Leader Vikki Slade said she was “appalled” by the scenes, and said it was irresponsible for so many people to head to the beach.
She said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours.
“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.
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“We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.”
Police reported a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour when the beaches were busy, many of which involved excessive alcohol and fights.
Many commentators have suggested the Government, or local councils, should restrict access to the most popular beaches and beauty spots across the country.
Do you agree? Should restrictions be imposed in the busiest areas – or indeed, be shut completely to prevent people from flocking to popular beauty spots.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the Government was prepared to shut beaches if the public fail to adhere to social distancing guidance.
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Professor Chris Whitty reminded the public to follow social distancing rules
Coronavirus UK: Tonnes of litter was left on the Bournemouth beach
Asked if it was time to consider closing beaches, 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 Mr Hancock’s comments were referring to the power of the Government to impose localised lockdowns.
A No10 spokesman said: “Local authorities are best-placed to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis.”
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The packed beaches wasn’t the only issue authorities encountered during last month’s heatwave, as a staggering amount of litter was left behind.
Pictures shared on social media showed huge piles of rubbish left on the beach.
The council said 33 tonnes of waste was cleaned up along the full stretch of the coastline on just one morning in June.
Other days saw the council clear up tonnes more of excessive waste.
Many people have called for higher-penalties to be introduced for littering and an increase in litter patrols to fine those caught dropping rubbish – do you agree?
Coronavirus UK: Many of Britons beaches were overcrowded last month
With such large numbers heading to the beach and staying put despite the huge crowds, it appears many people were not concerned about the risk of catching coronavirus.
As a result, Express.co.uk is asking if you would feel comfortable going to a popular beach or beauty spot where there are lots of people?