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#UK beach town raises alarm as huge crowds flock to the coast

#UK beach town raises alarm as huge crowds flock to the coast

June 26, 2020 | 12:56pm

LONDON – Authorities in Bournemouth, a popular beach town in southern England, declared a “major incident” on Thursday over what they called the irresponsible behavior of crowds who had ignored public health guidance on coronavirus and badly overstretched local services.

The declaration came after visitors arrived in very large numbers in a spell of hot weather, resulting in gridlock on the roads, illegal overnight camping, excessive waste, anti-social behavior and alcohol-fuelled fights.

“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” said Council Leader Vikki Slade in a statement.

“The irresponsible behavior and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.”

Social distancing measures have been in place in Britain since March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, although the rules are due to be significantly relaxed from July 4.

People enjoy the hot weather at the beach, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, in Bournemouth, Britain.
People enjoy the hot weather at the beach, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, in Bournemouth, Britain.Reuters

With pubs still closed, many people have been heading to parks and beaches to meet friends and drink alcohol, in some cases ignoring advice to keep 2 meters (6 feet) apart.

In Bournemouth, roads were obstructed by illegal parking, crews were abused as they attempted to empty overflowing bins and 33 tonnes of waste had to be removed from the stretch of coastline in and around the town on Thursday morning.

The emergency response will involve extra police patrols, security to protect rubbish collectors, additional parking enforcement, evictions of unauthorized campers and signage on approach roads warning people not to come.

“We strongly advise members of the public to think twice before heading to the area,” said Sam de Reya of the local police force. “Clearly we are still in a public health crisis and such a significant volume of people heading to one area places a further strain on emergency service resources.”

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