In an unprecedented statement, Swanage Town Council has asked tourists and second homeowners to not visit the town, in an effort to protect residents from coronavirus. This follows on from a similar statement today from Dorset Council. Despite the huge financial contribution that tourism brings to the local economy, Swanage Town Council said:
“We support the decision of Dorset Council to ask tourists and second homeowners to help stop the spread of coronavirus by staying away from tourist hotspots such as Swanage. We can’t wait to give you the most fantastic welcome when this crisis is over, but for now please stay safe in your own home.”
This evening, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson spelt out that people must not leave their homes except for essential tasks:
“I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”
In response, the Sandbanks Ferry has announced that it will close to all foot passengers, cyclists and motorcyclists until further notice. It will continue to carry cars and commercial vehicles but drivers must stay in their vehicles.
Hundreds of people congregating on the beaches
The move to prevent coronavirus tourism and self-isolating holidays, comes after a sunny weekend in Swanage that saw many hundreds of people congregating on the beaches, along the seafront and on the coastal paths towards Old Harry Rocks.
Yesterday, the Department for Health and Social Care issued this strong advice:
“Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”
Councillor Tony Alford, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Customer, Community and Regulatory services, said:
“Dorset is a rural county and any additional visitors to Dorset during the pandemic are likely to put even more pressure on our NHS and other essential public services, not to mention supermarkets which are already facing challenges maintaining social-distancing rules.
While councillor, Gary Suttle, who represents Swanage and is the council’s portfolio holder for economic growth and skills, said:
“We are aware that the travel restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the virus is having a damaging effect on tourism and the hospitality businesses in Dorset. We know that businesses are suffering, doors are closing, and redundancies are already being made.
“We want to reassure businesses that we are working with the government and through our partners locally, to help businesses get urgent access to financial help and other packages of support. Dorset Council website is being constantly updated with information specifically for businesses and I would encourage anyone with concerns or questions to have a look at those pages.”
“Welcoming visitors back to Dorset will play a key part in our economic recovery but for now, we must protect Dorset’s NHS and essential front-line services by asking visitors to stay away.”