THOSE considering a visit to Dorset are being asked to “think twice” before travelling to the area, despite the Prime Minister’s easing of lockdown restrictions.
Dorset Council leader, Councillor Spencer Flower, has issued a clear message for any potential visitors or day trippers thinking of coming to the area as a result of the government easing of lockdown restrictions: “Thinking of visiting Dorset now? Please think twice.”
The council has decided that, at this early stage, car parks at visitor destinations including beaches and country parks across Dorset will stay closed for the time being. The only exception to this is the Swannery car park in Weymouth, which will re-open later this week for road safety reasons.
Public toilets will also remain closed due to the difficulty for social distancing to be maintained at these facilities.
Some council-run car parks in town and village centres have remained open through the COVID-19 outbreak for local residents. These will continue to remain open but parking charges will now be reintroduced.
This follows the latest guidelines from government, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, outlining the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions.
The 50 page document published by the government on Monday stated that although people are still encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, people can now “travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance” and “day trips to outdoor open space, in a private vehicle, are permitted” as long as people practise social distancing.
Dorset councillors and many local residents are concerned about the potential impact this new guidance may have on spreading the virus and increasing the infection rate.
Cllr Spencer Flower said: “Our overriding priority is the safety and wellbeing of Dorset residents. We want to discourage people from outside the county and from areas with a higher rate of infection than Dorset from visiting our beaches and beauty spots, and inadvertently spreading the virus to local people.
“We are working closely with our partners including Dorset Police to monitor and review the situation. We will adapt our approach when the situation changes.”
Lyme Regis Town Council has followed suit and will also be keeping its car parks and public toilets closed this weekend.
The mayor, Cllr Brian Larcombe, said: “The town council’s car parks and public toilets will remain closed for the time being, pending review.
“It seems sensible to align our facilities with Dorset Council’s and their announcement that they are keeping their toilets and car parks closed in Lyme Regis. They are reviewing their position on Tuesday, May 19 and we will do the same.”
Residents in Dorset have co-operated well with the government’s lockdown over recent weeks. Even on sunny bank holidays, the vast majority of people have stuck to the rules and stayed at home. As a result, beaches and beauty spots have remained very quiet and the infection rate across Dorset is low compared to the rest of the country.
The South West of England has had 7044 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date. This means the southwest’s rate of infection – at 126 per 100,000 residents – is the lowest regional rate across the country.
The Dorset Council area has a large older population and many local residents have health conditions which mean they are vulnerable to risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.
Cllr Spencer Flower added: “People who may be thinking of visiting Dorset from elsewhere in the country need to ask themselves, is this safe? Is this fair? We really look forward to welcome visitors back to our beautiful county in future, but it’s too early to take the risk right now.”