Rural residents tell 'Covidiot' visitors to go home, with parks and beauty spots packed

Backlash as people ignore social distancing rules and fail to stay two metres apart

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Signs have been put up in Bala, Wales, telling visitors to stay away 
Signs have been put up in Bala, Wales, telling visitors to stay away 

A backlash against those ignoring social distancing instructions saw people in rural communities telling visitors to "go home" on Sunday as parks and beauty spots were packed with visitors.

Some tourist destinations and National Parks saw their busiest ever days over the weekend as people ignored the advice to stay two metres apart to enjoy the sunshine.

Updated advice on Sunday said essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays, and that people should remain in their primary residence.

The National Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society and a London council were among those that announced that they were to close all their venues because they could not guarantee safety after visitor numbers spiked.

The Mother's Day influx into parks and beaches even led to tourism boards asking people to stay away, with Visit Wales putting out the message: "Visit Wales. Later."

There are concerns that an increase in the number people travelling to rural communities, which already have a high proportion of elderly residents, will put unsustainable pressure on local health and social care services, as well as shops.

Some rural communities have warned that people are attempting to isolate themselves in remote areas amid petitions for caravan parks to be closed.

Judy Murray, the mother of tennis stars Andy and Jamie Murray, tweeted a simple message to "those relocating to the countryside" – a picture of a car and trailer with "Go home idiots" and "Covid-19" painted on the side. Other social media users shared pictures and videos of packed parks and car parks and described people as "covidiots".

Boris Johnson said the Government would be thinking "very actively" in the next 24 hours about taking further measures to prevent the ignoring of social distancing advice.

He told a press conference on Sunday that "I don't want to do that" as it is "so important" that people are able to go out, but stressed that freedom "can only really be preserved if everybody acts responsibly and conforms with those principles of staying apart from one another and social distancing".

The Prime Minister added that "if people can't make use of parks and playgrounds in a way that observes two-metre rule, then we're going to have to look at further measures".

The National Trust said on Sunday that it would close all parks, gardens, houses, shops and cafes as well as car parks for countryside and coastal locations because of high demand.

Director general Hilary McGrady said the trust would be taking measures to ensure that people do not lose their connection with nature, and that the sites of natural beauty remain open "virtually".

Snowdonia National Park Authority said its area "experienced its busiest visitor day in living memory" on Saturday, with so many people that it was "impossible to maintain effective social distancing".

Chatsworth House, Whipsnade Zoo and the Yorkshire Wildlife Park also announced that they would be closing their doors, and some DIY stores and garden centres reported being busier than on Bank Holiday weekends, when visitor numbers are normally at their peak.

Britain is not the first country to see a rush to beauty spots, with visitor destinations across the world being overwhelmed. The Australian government this weekend closed Bondi Beach in Sydney because of overcrowding.

But it was not just rural areas and beauty spots that experienced high numbers of visitors. Londoners were criticised for attending "packed" markets, including the famous flower market on Colombia Road.

Hammersmith and Fulham council announced that, as of 7pm on Sunday night,  all the parks in the borough would be closed until further notice, adding: "Please stay home, save lives."

Royal Parks closed its parks on the outskirts of London to all traffic, and all remaining takeway cafes and kiosks, because "people are not adhering to social distancing guidelines".

A spokesman warned that it was keeping the situation under review and, if the rules continue to be ignored, "will have no choice but to consider closing the parks".

Signs at Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire Credit: Charlotte Graham

Many are concerned that, with London the worst hit and with schools shut, the situation in the countryside will get worse unless action is taken.

Kate Forbes, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said there "has been an influx of campervans and traffic with people living in cities to what they think is self-isolation. But this is not a wilderness, this is a place where people live."

George Freeman, the MP for Mid Norfolk, tweeted: "To those people with 2nd homes in Norfolk: PLS DONT flee London to come to Norfolk", adding that they risked "spreading the virus".

On Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon moved to stem a flood of people into the Highlands by barring them from taking ferries to the islands and telling all accommodation providers to stop accepting visitors.

The First Minister said all hotels, bed and breakfasts and self-catering providers should only be housing staff and essential workers amid fears local rural hospitals could collapse under the pressure.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, warned: "Social distancing includes avoiding all but essential travel, and if people don't follow this advice we will have no choice but to use powers to enforce it."