Keswick becomes first town to close for business over coronavirus fears 

Cumbrian town asks all non-essential businesses to close after an influx of visitors prompted fears over the spread of Covid-19

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After a packed weekend Keswick was almost deserted on Monday
After a packed weekend Keswick was almost deserted on Monday Credit: Charlotte Graham

Keswick has become the first town to announce the shutdown of all “non-essential” shops as the police warn tourists that it is “no longer business as usual” in the Lake District. 

After rural idylls and beauty spots were flooded with visitors over the weekend, the Cumbrian town council asked all businesses including hotels and campsites to close “with immediate effect to help prevent the transmission of Covid-19”. 

It came as tourist and second home hotspots across the country begged visitors to stay away for fear that resources and limited health services will be swamped. 

On the Isle of Wight, officials are so concerned about the spread of coronavirus that they are asking anyone who lands on the island to immediately go into quarantine for seven days.

Keswick’s Mayor David Burn said that it was not an easy decision to make but they felt forced to do so after visitor numbers over the weekend.

Mayor David Burn on the almost empty streets  Credit: Charlotte Graham

He has just returned from lockdown in Lanzarote where police only allowed people to leave their homes for food or medicine, which appeared to be working with only three cases on the island.

Mr Burn, who believes Keswick is the first town to issue the order, said: “Things are changing daily and the Government might announce that all non-essential businesses have to close.

“If they do then we have beaten them to it, but if they don't, I can see a lot of other towns will follow suit. We are getting good advice but human nature being what it is many people will ignore it if the rules are not enforced.”

With 79 confirmed cases, Cumbria has the fifth highest level of corona virus outside of London. 

The local borough council has cancelled the bi-weekly market in the town and they have asked them to consider closing all car parks.  

Urging visitors to stay away, Cumbria police said: “Now that pubs, restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops and visitor attractions have been advised to close, the Lake District is no longer conducting business as usual.”

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Slattery added: “A national emergency shut-down of businesses and schools is not an excuse for a holiday.”

After the request to close all non-essential businesses went out the town was largely empty. Food shops, pharmacies and the post office were the only ones that remained open.

Shops in Keswick were shut after visitors ignored social distancing advice over the weekend

The market square, which was reminiscent of a busy bank holiday over the weekend, was all but empty.

Alexandra Boardman closed down her ladies clothes store Alexandra’s of Keswick on Saturday. She said that it will be hard and no one will ever be fully recompensed for their losses but she believes: “We are all in this together and we will get through this.”

“We need our lovely holiday makers to please go home and come back when things are better,” Ms Boardman, who also sits on the town council told the Telegraph. 

“We need people to respect that fact that we are a rural community, our health resources are limited and statistically we have an ageing population. 

“We have got to close down our businesses and work together to protect our community. 

“Our visitors will come back and we will welcome them with open arms.”

The town will rely on networks set up to cope with flooding to provide assistance to those in need during the shutdown. 

So far, there have only been two confirmed cases on the Isle of Wight, which is asking people to quarantine upon arrival, but the MP, Bob Seely is urging people not to take any risks.

“We need to do our best to limit the chance for the virus to spread and we need to do what we can to make sure our NHS is not overwhelmed,” he said. 

“We need to do our best to limit the chance for the virus to spread and we need to do what we can to make sure our NHS is not overwhelmed,” he said. 

“This is not just about keeping ourselves safe, but ensuring that we keep others safe. It’s about ‘us' and not ‘me'.

As part of a seven point plan for people arriving on the Isle of Wight, he said: “You should be self-isolating for at least a week once you arrive. Follow the guidance and please obey it for the sake of others.”

Other requests include staying in your car when on the ferry on the journey over, not panic buying when on the island and only offering to help other people when you know for sure that you are not infected.

“The island is a friendly and welcoming place and we want people to stay safe and healthy,” Mr Seely told the Telegraph. 

“We want people to come here, just not at the moment.

“Other parts of the UK are reminiscent of black and white horror movies of the 1930s with locals armed with pitchforks driving out the invading forces.

“Those parts will suffer when Britain does return to normal.”

In Dorset, Council leaders have requested that people who have second homes in the county do not visit, even if it is to self-isolate. In response to hundreds of visitors flooding to the area this weekend, Dorset's five country parks will now be closed.

Cllr Tony Alford said: “We need everyone to help us stop the spread of coronavirus by staying at home and not visiting Dorset’s tourist hotspots for the time being. This particularly applies to day-trippers and second-home owners, who might wish to come to Dorset to isolate themselves.

“We must treat the advice of experts seriously. The closure of our country parks and green

spaces we believe, will help stop the spread of this virus.

Elsewhere, Essex County Council has shut its nine country parks so that large groups cannot gather and risk passing on infections. Other counties are expected to follow suit.

David Finch, the Council’s Leader, said they would have to take more difficult decisions this week.

In the South West, Cornwall Council said the area prides itself on being an open and welcoming place, “but during these unprecedented times we ask that anyone planning a trip to Cornwall consider deferring their visit and avoid all but essential travel.”

Suffolk County Council Leader, Matthew Hicks, said: “The images reported of people not practicing social distancing over the weekend at some of Suffolk’s tourism hotspots are extremely worrying.

“Government advice is that people, young or old, vulnerable or not, should be keeping a distance of two metres between them and anyone else, even when out in the fresh air.

“We echo that advice and urge our residents and anyone tempted to visit Suffolk, to heed what is being asked of them. By doing so we will be helping to stop the spread of the virus.”

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has announced that they will be  closing caravan parks, campsites and “most of our recognisable visitor sites” in order to deter tourists.