Dorset Police have revealed that they’ve issued more than a thousand fixed penalty notices since Covid measures were introduced in March 2020 amidst a stern warning for visitors to stay away from Dorset during half term and instead to “explore from your door”.
While authorities say that most have largely adhered to the restrictions, Dorset Police dealt out 1,083 fixed penalty notices since the start of the pandemic, between 27th March 2020 and 17th January 2021 – with almost 200 notices issued since the start of the third lockdown.
A total of 76.3 percent of these notices were handed to visitors from outside the county across all three lockdowns. However, during this latest lockdown, between 6th January and 17th January 2021, that figure has been 40 percent.
Hundreds reported to the police
Dorset Police are trying to cut down the number of visitors to the county during lockdown.
The force is working with partner agencies to encourage people to stay local as the February half-term looms rather than coming to Dorset and risking spreading coronavirus.
In the past week alone, they have received 376 Covid related reports. Recent examples included people travelling from London to surf in Dorset. In addition, a group of five were fined after travelling all the way from Leicester to Lulworth to see the coastline.
Traffic in Dorset has also increased compared to the first lockdown. In the Dorset Council area, there has been a 94 percent increase in traffic on 1st February 2021 compared to the first lockdown. However, it was 39 percent lower than the same time last year.
“We know people love to visit Dorset”
Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police said:
“While the legislation allows people to travel locally to carry out their daily exercise with members of their household or one other person, there has been much discussion about what ‘local’ means.
“The government states that local means staying within your village, town or city. It does not mean travelling for over 100 miles from out of the county to visit Dorset’s beaches, countryside or beauty spots. This is not within the spirit of the legislation.
“We know people love to visit Dorset, but trips here will have to wait and we are encouraging people to stay local and explore from their door. Disappointingly we have still seen people travelling for over 100 miles to visit our beauty spots. Travelling to stay in second homes or other rentals is also not allowed at this time.
“Our officers will be continuing their daily patrols on the main arterial routes in and through Dorset, as well as at popular beauty spots, and will be speaking to motorists about their journeys. If people are found to have travelled unnecessarily and in blatant breach of the rules, they could be handed a £200 fine and turned around.”
Under the current lockdown restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on Monday 4th January 2021, everyone is ordered to stay at home and holidays in the UK and abroad are illegal, to prevent the spread of the virus.
People should only leave their homes to shop for essentials, go to work if it cannot be done from home, for exercise, for medical reasons, meeting within support or care bubbles, and to seek emergency help.
The next major government announcement regarding the future of lockdown restrictions in England is expected on Monday 22nd February 2021.
“Everyone must “respect the guidelines”
Seth Why of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said:
“We completely understand and would like to encourage the public to get outside with their children this half term, but we also need everyone to respect the guidelines and stay local. We’re incredibly fortunate to have some of the most beautiful sites in the country on our doorsteps, but we still shouldn’t be making unnecessary journeys outside our village, town or city. These beauty spots aren’t going anywhere!”
“We know how hard this lockdown is”
Councillor Spencer Flower, Leader of Dorset Council, said:
“We know how hard this lockdown is, with us all being affected by the restrictions in some way, but the light really is at the end of the tunnel as vaccines are rolled out every day to our most vulnerable people and front line workers. Please, continue to stay home and stay local this half term.”