Yorkshire Dales bosses have pleaded with walkers to stay away. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Yorkshire Dales bosses have pleaded with walkers to stay away. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Police and national park authorities are urging people to stay at home over the bank holiday weekend, emphasising Covid-19 restrictions remain in place.

The pleas follow hints by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he may announce some easing of the lockdown on Sunday.

National newspapers have widely speculated on what constraints might be relaxed on Monday.

David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority said: “We have already begun planning for the moment when the countryside will once again be open to all, and how we keep our communities and visitors safe. But for now, and certainly for this weekend, please stay home, exercise locally, and plan your visit for when the restrictions on travel are lifted.

“Many in our community fall into most the vulnerable category of people. Please respect that and visit the Park when travel restrictions are lifted.”

The authority said North Yorkshire and Cumbria police, supported by the national park ranger service, will be stopping and checking vehicles to ensure they are on essential journeys. Travelling to exercise is not considered an essential journey, it said.

Snowdonia National Park Authority said, over the course of the bank holiday weekend, partner agencies will be releasing a collection of images on social media on behalf of frontline workers urging the public to follow the Government guidelines and continue to stay at home.

North Wales Police Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Harrison said: “We continue to urge people not to travel to north Wales over the bank holiday weekend.”

The Welsh Government introduced legislation allowing authorities to close rights of way during the lockdown.

Snowdonia national park's car parks remain closed. Photo: Snowdonia NPA

Snowdonia national park's car parks remain closed. Photo: Snowdonia NPA

TACC Harrison said: “Restrictions on non‐essential travel remain in place. Our tourist attractions, parts of the national park, pubs, restaurants, cafes, caravan, holiday parks and campsites all remain closed. Sadly we’ve had recent occasions where people have travelled totally unreasonable distances into north Wales.”

“We know that many will be disappointed that we cannot mark VE Day in the way that was planned and would have been fitting. However, in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and social distancing guidance, it is of utmost importance that people commemorate at home, so we can protect the NHS and save lives.

“Our focus continues to be to reassure, inform and engage with people so they understand why these restrictions are in place. Teams continue to be out and about in our communities and on the road networks, and will be once again this weekend, ensuring the people are complying with the restrictions.

“However we’d like to thank the vast majority who are adhering to the restrictions. You really are playing your part in helping to save lives. What we are doing is showing signs of working but we must keep going otherwise the last few weeks will have been for nothing.”

Snowdonia has closed many of its mountain paths. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Snowdonia has closed many of its mountain paths. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

A letter from the Welsh First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford, and other community and police leaders makes it clear that travelling to a second home does not ordinarily constitute essential travel, and that anyone leaving or remaining away from the place where they are living without a reasonable excuse is committing an offence, North Wales Police said.

TACC Harrison said: “People should not think of ways of circumventing the law. This is about making sure loved ones don’t die because of a few selfish actions, the police should not be needed to reinforce common sense.

“The mountains, beaches and countryside will be here when this is over for us all to enjoy and everyone will look forward to welcoming visitors back once it is safe again to do so. Until then please stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”

Emyr Williams, chief executive of Snowdonia National Park Authority said: “It’s really important that people keep adhering to the Government guidelines to stay at home. We would like to sincerely thank the vast majority of people who are continuing to help prevent the spread of the disease by staying at home, but we’re concerned about the reports we’re having from our wardens that traffic and visitor numbers are slowly increasing.

“The government guidelines and restrictions have not changed, and people should still be staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel.”

Dyfed-Powys Police revealed some of the reasons visitors had offered to police when they were stopped.

Inspector Andy Williams said: “Unfortunately we have continued to see some individuals flouting the rules by travelling to second homes and other holiday accommodation, driving hundreds of miles under the guise of seeking exercise, and in some cases attempting to take advantage of quieter roads to commit crime.”

A force spokesperson said: “While most people have listened to government guidelines asking people to stay home unless absolutely necessary, others have not – with their reasons for doing so ranging from misguided to bizarre.

“These have included people driving to the Dyfed-Powys region from London, Luton, Bristol and beyond to buy or look at dogs, with one Manchester man telling officers his potential pet ‘wouldn’t be a puppy anymore’ if he waited until lockdown was over.

Journeying from England to walk in the Brecon Beacons is not essential travel. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Journeying from England to walk in the Brecon Beacons is not essential travel. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

“Among those also crossing the border for non-essential travel were a Bath couple who wanted to walk Pen y Fan, a trio who travelled from Gloucester and Kettering to camp in the Brecon Beacons, and two men stopped in Brecon after driving from Derby to pick up a remote controlled car.

“The driver was also arrested for drug-driving.

“A couple were left distinctly deflated after officers told them a 100-mile round trip to Pembrokeshire to collect a bouncy castle they had purchased on Facebook was not considered essential travel.

“And words of advice were also issued to three people in Pembrokeshire who claimed they did not know the country was in lockdown as they didn’t watch the news, and were ‘dropping a friend home after a visit’.”

Police said a couple stopped at 1am with a boot-full of fishing gear initially told officers they were going to collect some rice from a friend – despite the co-ordinates for Saundersfoot beach clearly having been programmed into their sat-nav.

Insp Williams said: “It is vital that, for as long as the restrictions remain in place, everyone takes responsibility for their actions and ensures they are only travelling when absolutely necessary.

“Our continued aim is to support public health by keeping our key worker colleagues, and the general public, safe.”

Devon and Cornwall Police have launched a Think Twice campaign urging people to consider carefully their reasons for leaving their homes.

Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew, said: “The lockdown that we are currently living through affects us; not being able to be with family or friends; impacts on peoples work and businesses; financial concerns and the impact that this plays on our mental health – this is a challenging time.

“We need to do all we can to prevent this virus from gaining the ability to escalate further. So I am asking you to ‘Think Twice’ before you consider leaving your home.”

The force said people may be tempted to relax their compliance with the government restrictions for the 75th celebrations of VE Day.

ACC Mayhew said: “VE Day allows us to all take some time to reflect on the sacrifice, courage and determination of those who played their part during the Second World War.

“This is something that we should all keep at the front of our minds as we are all asked to do our part to help tackle the spread of this deadly virus. Please find the time to mark the VE Day celebrations and to do so in a safe way.

“Now is not the time to relax social distancing measures and to pop and see a few friends. The Government direction, at this time, continues to be to socially distance and it is important that we all adhere to it.”

Devon and Cornwall Police said the force recently undertook a public survey seeking views on how it was working through the Covid-19 lockdown. It said the results were extremely positive with more than 91 per cent of responses supportive of its current approach.

ACC Mayhew said: “The key to making this work within Cornwall, Devon and the Isles of Scilly is for everyone to continue to be fair and reasonable.

“Our approach, policing by consent with the public, partners and communities has been well received. This approach continues to not be taken lightly and we are fortunate that the vast majority of people not only in our counties but across the country are staying home and protecting lives.”

Meanwhile, Longtown Mountain Rescue Team, which covers the eastern Brecon Beacons, posted a ‘Thanks to the NHS’ video on Facebook, emphasising the ‘stay at home’ message.

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