Published: 11:22, 14 May 2020
| Updated: 12:31, 14 May 2020
Day-trippers are being urged to stay away from the Kent coast as its beaches are being promoted to Londoners as destinations for a lockdown getaway.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Sunday that people can now drive to other places and enjoy picnics on beaches and in parks, if they follow social distancing rules.
Journeys by car “to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance” are now permitted “because this does not involve contact with people outside your household”.
But residents in the county's coastal towns believe the changes, which came into place on Wednesday, could result in the coast being inundated with visitors from the capital.
“It betrays the sacrifices made by local people over recent weeks to maintain social distancing and to prevent the spread of the virus. We will end up with crowds on the seafront with quite narrow walkways.”
Met Office forecasts currently predict it will be cloudy on Saturday and Sunday, with highs of 15 and 18 degrees.
Website Time Out London has listed four stretches of the Kent coast as destinations to visit "for sweet sea air".
Its recommendations are Tankerton Beach in Whitstable, Dungeness, Botany Bay in Broadstairs and Birchington's Minnis Bay.
But North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale says he is “praying for a wet weekend” in the hope it will deter those wanting to have a trip to the coast from travelling.
“I have spent 37 years in Parliament promoting the joys of Margate and Herne Bay and it breaks my heart to have to say, for the moment, please don`t come to the seaside - we`re still shut,” he added.
"I have dozens of small businesses facing huge losses and wanting desperately to open up and start earning a living again but if we take the shutters down too soon we could lose an entire season for the sake of another few weeks.
“The more you’ve got people moving around, particularly when you’ve got people travelling down from London, which is one of the centres of the disease, the more likely it is that it’ll spread.”
The Sage committee of scientists says the risk of contracting coronavirus outdoors is “significantly lower” than inside.
Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield is hoping not to see images akin to the ones taken in March that showed crowds congregating outside the Whitstable Oyster Company restaurant.
“I am hoping that Whitstable is not inundated and that people who do visit are respectful of others’ space,” she said.
“Businesses who open for takeaway coffee or ice cream must help ensure responsible queueing, so that they help everyone stay within the rules and regulations and so help keep our community safe.”