POLICE were forced to patrol Britain’s beaches yesterday as sunbathers ignored warnings of a second coronavirus spike to flock to the coast.
Bournemouth council declared a major incident after being overwhelmed by 500,000 visitors cramming on to the sands on the hottest day of the year.
And as police dispersed rowdy teen-agers in both Hove, East Sussex, and Formby, Merseyside, another seaside council pleaded for the Army to be sent in. Ron Woodley, Southend council’s deputy leader, said locals were afraid to leave their homes because of anti-social behaviour. ‘If we can’t get enough police then get the armed forces on the streets,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to be in a military state but we want to be safe.’
Traffic jams several miles long formed at Camber Sands in East Sussex and towards Bournemouth, where drivers were stuck in queues for two hours. Volunteer marshals who attempted to turn away cars in Dorset were abused and spat on. Some of Bournemouth’s visitors had travelled from as far away as Birmingham, with a number having camped illegally on the beach overnight.
As yesterday’s death toll rose by 149 to 43,230, doctors warned that sunseekers were putting themselves and others in rising danger of Covid-19.
The chaotic scenes came as temperatures soared past 30C (86F), with the Met Office forecasting sporadic thunderstorms today.
Health secretary Matt Hancock warned last night that ministers have the power to close beaches if social distancing is not observed. ‘I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown,’ he told TalkRadio.
‘We do have those powers, and if we see a spike in the number of cases, we will take action.’
Television doctor Hilary Jones was horrified by the crowds. He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I know the temptation is to go to the beach but there are plenty of open spaces that may not be quite as beautiful but safer. We’re not out of the first wave.’ After Bournemouth workers picked up 33 tons of litter left on beaches on Wednesday, council leader Vikki Slade said: ‘We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches.
‘The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is shocking and our services are stretched to the hilt trying to keep everyone safe.
‘We have had no choice but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.’
Dorset Police assistant chief constable Sam de Reya urged: ‘These are unprecedented times and we are urging people to stay away from Bournemouth beach and other Dorset beaches. Clearly we are still in a public health crisis.’
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, called on the government to send extra police, saying Britain had ‘the perfect storm of incredible weather and a liberation of some Covid-19 guidelines’.
He added: ‘Selfish people are threatening to prolong the pandemic and litter our beautiful beaches.’