PM urges public to keep observing social distancing after thousands flocked to beaches

26 June 2020, 17:16

Bournemouth beach was left covered in litter
Bournemouth beach was left covered in litter. Picture: Getty

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Prime Minister has urged the public to observe social distancing in the hot weather after droves of people flocked to beaches on Thursday, resulting in a number of beach brawls.

Government ministers have said they are "reluctant" to close beaches, but will do so if needed. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested beaches could be closed by the government if infections rise.

It comes after a major incident was declared in Bournemouth on Thursday after the beach became too crowded on the hottest day of the year.

On Friday, Boris Johnson said people are "taking too many liberties" as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, Boris Johnson has said after thousands of people flocked the beaches.

The prime minister said Britons should refrain from "mingling too much and not observing social distancing".

Speaking on Friday, Mr Johnson said: "Let me be very clear about the scenes in Bournemouth - it's very important for people to understand if you look at what's happening elsewhere in the world where people have been coming out of lockdown.

"I'm afraid what you're also seeing is people taking too many liberties with the guidance, mingling too much, not observing social distancing.

"Some parts of the world - I won't name them - you've got really serious spikes in the instances of the diseases."

Local volunteers clearing the beach in Bournemouth on Friday morning
Local volunteers clearing the beach in Bournemouth on Friday morning. Picture: Getty
Litter was piled up by beside council bins
Litter was piled up by beside council bins. Picture: Getty

Pictures today show beaches strewn with litter including plastic bags, bottles and boxes.

The leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council said she was left "appalled" by the manner in which a minority of "irresponsible" beachgoers had littered, with more than 40 tonnes of waste being removed along the coastline.

The council also confirmed it had issued 558 parking enforcement fines, the highest on record, in a 24-hour period.

Five people were also stabbed in beach brawls across the UK.

Two men were stabbed after thousands of people attended a party on Leysdwon Beach in Kent. Three men were also stabbed in a knife attack near Bournemouth Pier.

Further beach brawls took place in Exmouth, South Wales and Margate.

Two men have been arrested in South Wales, with a fifteen year old boy being arrested in Exmouth.

Boris Johnson also said on Friday: "It's crucial people understand that on 4 July we get this right and we do this in a balanced way and we recognise the risks.

"You may think you're not going to get it and you're immortal and invincible and so on. And very likely that's true, particularly if you're a young person.

"But the bug you carry can kill elderly people particularly. It's still dangerous. The virus is still out there."

It comes after he told an MP on Tuesday to "show some guts and determination and champion their communities" when questioned in parliament over what he would do to keep beach communities safe.

Environment Secretary George Eustace told LBC the number of people on Bournemouth beach yesterday was "a bit of a concern", but he insists people have tried to observe guidelines as well as they can.

He also said: "Clearly people didn't heed that. I do think we have to appeal to people to be careful here.

"We've taken the next steps of loosening the lockdown… It's important that people observe the social distancing measures in place."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that beaches could end up being closed down after thousands of people descended on Bournemouth beach yesterday sparking a "major incident".

"Well, we do have that power," he said.

"I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown. Everybody should be able to enjoy the sunshine.

"We do have those powers - and if we see a spike in the number of cases, then we will take action."

Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas said the numbers in Bournemouth were "very worrying"

She said: "We love welcoming visitors but want everyone to be safe & need time to make city ready. Please respect the rules and our city."

MP for Bournemouth East Tobias Ellwood urged visitors "not to forget the pandemic is far from over".

He said: "It is very sad to see a number of people being selfish and also acting dangerously."

Wheelie bins were left overflowing on Worthing seafront
Wheelie bins were left overflowing on Worthing seafront. Picture: PA

A clean-up operation is also under way on North East beaches after drunk revellers fought on the sand and dumped bottles and cans.

Police made a number of arrests following trouble at the seaside on Thursday as record numbers visited the beaches in the North Tyneside area.

A video shared on social media showed men fighting on the sand, close to where family groups sat enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

Another video taken later in the day showed men in handcuffs being taken away by officers, with a number of police vehicles parked up at the scene.

On Friday morning a clean-up was under way after piles of rubbish were dumped and debris from fires was left for other people to remove.

Carl Johnson, North Tyneside Council's cabinet member for environment and transport, said: "It is always very frustrating to find rubbish on our award-winning beaches.

"As a council that prides itself on keeping standards high at the coast, we always bring in extra resources during peak season and our staff work incredibly hard to keep our coastline clean and tidy."

He said staff had been kept on later into the evening to deal with the mess.

Mr Johnson added: "We've never seen the coast as busy as it has been over the last few days.

"I would urge people to continue social distancing and help us to keep our beautiful beaches clean by using the many bins provided.

"If a bin is full because we haven't reached it yet, please take your rubbish away with you."

Litter was left on the Formby Beach sand dunes in Merseyside
Litter was left on the Formby Beach sand dunes in Merseyside. Picture: PA

However, today looks set to be the last day of scorching temperatures, with thunderstorms and torrential rain are forecast to sweep across the UK, bringing an end to a week of blazing sunshine and scorching temperatures.

The Met Office has warned Friday's storms could bring lightning, hail and flooding to some areas, with up to 50mm of rain falling in an hour.

A yellow weather warning is in place for most of England, Scotland and east Wales from midday to 9am on Saturday, and parts of Northern Ireland from 1pm until 10pm on Friday.

The south-west and part of the south-east coast of England are not covered by the warning.

Met Office meteorologist Craig Snell said: "Not everyone will see a storm, but if you catch one, you will certainly know about it."

Temperatures on Friday are forecast to reach 31C in London, the mid-20s for the rest of England and up to 27C in the Scottish Highlands, making for a "relatively warm and humid" day, Mr Snell said.

The storms are expected to clear northeastwards on Friday afternoon and into the evening, but will remain over north-east Scotland until Saturday morning, the Met Office said.

On Friday morning, the Environment Agency issued seven flood alerts - meaning flooding is possible - of which five were focused near rivers in the West Midlands, while others were for the waterways around Loughborough in Leicestershire and the River Trent tributaries in Nottinghamshire.

Temperatures are expected to drop on Saturday to 22C to 23C (73.4F) in London, and stay around the "high teens to low 20s" for the rest of the UK, Mr Snell said.

He added: "It (the weather) will change, but it will be more what people expect our summer to be like - a mix of sun and showers."