Published: 06:00, 20 May 2020
| Updated: 07:55, 20 May 2020
A group of business owners in a tourist hotspot have joined forces to launch a campaign urging visitors to stay away.
The Don't Visit Margate scheme, supported by dozens of traders in the town, comes in response to the easing of lockdown restrictions in which Boris Johnson said people can drive to places to enjoy time outdoors.
It has sparked a wave of panic that day-trippers, desperate to escape cities and urban areas, will head to the coast especially during the good weather.
Thanet District Council leader Cllr Rick Everitt failed to ease people's concerns, saying the authority was looking at how it could re-open public toilets for residents and visitors from this coming weekend.
On the Visit Margate Facebook page - usually used to promote the town and attract visitors - bosses from leading businesses including Pete's Fish Factory, GB Pizza, The Lifeboat and Bus Café have published a joint statement asking people not to visit.
"We love Margate. It's a beautiful place, with a kind community, and we are all happiest when we can share it with visitors," they said.
"But right now, we have other things we need to do. Covid 19 is real, and here on the Isle of Thanet we have one of the highest death rates in the county.
"Our NHS is fragile, our local council clearly struggling and we're not ready for visitors.
"Everywhere is closed, including Turner Contemporary and Dreamland.
"We don't want a second wave of infections. That would hit our great indie shops, cafés, restaurants and guesthouses hard and mean it takes them even longer to recover.
"We want you back, and we'll welcome you with high kicks and razzmatazz, but not yet.
"So - for all of our indies, for local people, and for your own health, please stay home. Don't visit Margate."
The campaign is also backed by bosses at Cliffs, The Reading Rooms, Angela's Cafe, Roost, Bottega Caruso, Dory's, Margate Bookshop, Gordon House, The London Tavern, Margate History Walkers, Clayspace Studios, S&K Signs, Magical Margate Townhouse, Tootles & Nibs, Whisky & Beards, Margate Purveyor, Appletye and Dan Thompson Studio
Thanet North MP Roger Gale echoed the concerns, urging people not to visit, yet.
"It breaks my heart to have to say, for the moment, 'Please don`t come to the seaside: we`re still shut'," he said.
"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."
On May 10, the Prime Minister outlined changes to the restrictions regarding lockdown, including unlimited exercise and driving to places to enjoy a picnic or sit in a park.
Only the previous day, before easement had been announced, about 850 people were caught breaking the 'stay at home' message and ordered off beaches in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
But Thanet council is still pushing ahead and preparing for more visitors, posting guidance about how they can stay safe.
Council leader Cllr Everitt says residents and visitors need to be aware there will not be the usual access to amenities.
"We have been looking at how we can re-open public toilets and ensure public safety," he said.
"Our toilets are currently closed but the government guidance is helpful and will inform our plans to open some of these facilities from the weekend.
"We will continue to review the government guidance as this evolves and ensure that people are kept informed. As part of this, signage will be displayed in key locations around our coast.
"I’d like to thank the majority of people who are acting in a considerate and responsible way and would urge everyone to ensure that this continues."
More by this authorMarijke Hall