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'Madness' for visitors to travel from Essex to Kent beaches, MP says

An MP says it is "madness" for people from Essex to travel to Kent's beaches - as he again urges sunseekers to stay away.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that people can drive to beauty spots and parks, if they follow social distancing protocols, sparked concern the coast would be inundated with day-trippers.

Visitors to Herne Bay photographed yesterday
Visitors to Herne Bay photographed yesterday

And as thousands of people flocked to the seaside yesterday - and with forecasts predicting temperatures to be about 20°C over the bank holiday - fears remain that coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed prematurely.

With some beachgoers passing Southend in order to reach Herne Bay and Margate, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale is urging people not to be tempted to travel to the coast.

"Even desperately hard-pressed seaside businesses would prefer a short summer season in July and August to a reckless bank holiday couple of days that risks another lockdown that would put paid to the entire summer season," the veteran parliamentarian explained.

"We have no lifeguard cover on the bathing beaches and only a very few takeaway food outlets are open.

"Over the past few days people have even been driving from Essex - past Southend - to come to Herne Bay and Margate. That is madness.

Sunbathers and jet skiiers were photographed in Herne Bay the weekend lockdown was eased. Picture: David Graham
Sunbathers and jet skiiers were photographed in Herne Bay the weekend lockdown was eased. Picture: David Graham

"The idea that 'it won't get me' or that 'we'll get away with it' is exposing not only the visitors but their family and friends back home to terrible and possibly fatal infection."

Photos taken of Herne Bay seafront yesterday showed dozens of people on the beach enjoying the weather, as temperatures rose to about 24°C.

And Sir Roger is calling on his constituents to "stay very local" and avoid the beach in the coming days.

"If there is no surge in the infection figures – and of course that is the last thing that I want - then I shall be accused of being alarmist. I can live with that," he added.

"I would ask everyone to err on the side of caution and instead of a cheap and nasty Whit weekend to look forward to a grand reopening of pubs, restaurants, cafes and full beach facilities - hopefully in time for mid-July”.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale

Sir Roger also says he has been told by residents that day-trippers have been "defecating in public places" due to the closures of toilets in his constituency.

But Canterbury City Council, which runs the loos in Herne Bay, insists all of its facilities have remained open, apart from those inside the Bandstand.

Today's warning comes after the Conservative received reports from "horrified" residents, including a former city councillor, that town's beaches were "heaving" last weekend.

Twitter user David Graham shared several photos online of the seafront on Sunday, which he claimed showed “we cannot be trusted to behave or show some respect to the NHS”.

Another poster on social media wrote: “If you want coronavirus, come to Herne Bay.”

Watch: tourists flock to Kent seaside

Canterbury City Council spokesman Rob Davies says the reports it has received suggest beachgoers were not behaving recklessly.

He said: “The general feedback from the weekend was that social distancing was being observed and the atmosphere was relaxed and good-natured.

“People seem to be using their common sense and are understanding that by working together and being sensible, we can beat this pandemic.”

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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