Visitors have been travelling to Snowdonia despite lockdown. Photo: Snowdonia NPA

Visitors have been travelling to Snowdonia despite lockdown. Photo: Snowdonia NPA

Snowdonia’s national park bosses have closed all the authority’s car parks.

The move came in response to widespread flouting of lockdown rules by people in the area with concern over new variant Covid-19 cases.

A spokesperson for Snowdonia National Park Authority said: “As the pandemic reaches a new high point in infection rates and a new variant of the virus is spreading so quickly, authorities want to emphasise the need to avoid any unnecessary travel.

“Following an increase in examples of people disregarding current Welsh Government guidelines that all of Wales is in lockdown – alert level 4 – the Snowdonia National Park Authority have decided to close all of their car parks.

“The decision has been made to protect our communities and the health services in north Wales, especially as the new variant of the disease is spreading so quickly.

“We want to support the message that exercise must start and finish from home and to avoid any activities that could put extra pressure on the emergency services.”

Welsh Government guidelines say people’s exercise should start and finish at their home and generally this should not involve people driving to a location away from home.

Exceptions include, for instance, wheelchair users who may not be able to start exercise immediately outside their homes for practical access reasons, in which case driving to a suitable flat location, such as a park, would be permitted. Where people need to drive to access exercise, the journey should be to the nearest convenient accessible location.

The Cardiff administration adds: “There are no legal limits on the kind of exercise that is permitted. However, in practice, this will be constrained by other alert-level-four restrictions requiring exercise to start and finish at home as well as the closure of leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools.

“As one of the purposes of alert-level-four restrictions is to reduce pressure on NHS Wales, we also ask people to avoid activities that involve a significant degree of risk.”

Snowdonia National Park Authority chairman Wyn Ellis Jones said: “It’s a crucial time in relation to the coronavirus pandemic and it’s our priority to protect Snowdonia’s communities.

“Because of the high volume of people seen ignoring government regulations in Snowdonia since Christmas, we have decided to take urgent measures to support the Welsh Government’s message to avoid any unnecessary travel.

“We hope that people will take personal responsibility for their actions and will voluntarily follow the current government guidelines.”

Nigel Harrison, Temporary North Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable, said: “We understand that people want to go outside to enjoy the mountains and snow. However this is a national emergency and we will continue to work with our national park colleagues to ensure that Welsh Government restrictions around essential travel are adhered to.

“The restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus are there to protect us all. It is vital that everyone takes personal responsibility by staying home unless they have a valid reason not to be there.

“People should not think of ways of circumventing the law. The police should not be needed to reinforce commonsense.

“We will not stand by and allow blatant breaches of the legislation to happen across our communities. We will of course engage with the public and explain the legislation, and encourage people to take personal responsibility for their own safety and that of others.

“If, however, people continue to flout the regulations, demonstrate a blatant disregard for the health warnings and put significant strain on already stretched resources, we will take action.

“It is not acceptable to pick and choose the law you follow and the laws you don’t. We all know the law by now and know exactly what is the right thing to do. This is not a dress rehearsal, people will live and die on the actions we all choose.”

Gareth Jones, assistant head of environment department at Gwynedd Council said: “Although the recent figures for Gwynedd are much lower than other areas of the country they continue to be a concern and we are very conscious that the number of cases could rise sharply.

“It is a real cause of concern that health experts are noting that the majority of cases in north Wales are of the new variant and we are encouraging residents to follow the simple guidelines to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe.

“We know the new variant spreads much easier and it’s vital that we minimise contact, open windows, wear face coverings where needed, maintain social distance and wash our hands.

“It’s vital that we follow the current guidelines to avoid unnecessary travel and not to drive to some of Snowdonia’s beauty spots for the time being. By playing our part each and every one of us will assist in the effort to halt the spread of the virus so we can return to a normal way of life as soon as possible.”

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