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A senior health official has urged people not to flock to Blackpool “just because you can”, after huge crowds descended on the seaside resort over the weekend.
Day-trippers said they had “never seen Blackpool so busy” on Saturday as people poured into the town hours after it was excluded from new coronavirus restrictions, which apply to most of north-west England.
Footage on social media showed crowds along the promenade and visitors reported queues for attractions, gridlocked traffic, little physical distancing and few people wearing masks indoors.
Gem Concannon, 36, from Northwich in Cheshire, said the town was “heaving”, adding: “Hardly anyone was wearing masks or social distancing. It was shocking. I’ve never seen it that busy before.”
The restrictions, which come into force on Tuesday, mean Blackpool will be the only area in a large part of north-west England not covered by stricter measures, despite having a higher infection rate than neighbouring areas.
The resort was not included in the Lancashire-wide restrictions because it has its own local authority boundaries and was not considered to be at a higher risk than other parts of the county. However, the decision has prompted widespread confusion and concern as the town’s infection rate has doubled in the past fortnight.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire county council, on Sunday said “don’t flock to Blackpool just because you can”.
“My message to the residents of Lancashire is we need to look after each other, our family and our friends. The rates are rising in all parts of Lancashire. Just because Blackpool is not yet an area of intervention, or where these new rules apply, this guidance that has come out applies to all of Lancashire no matter who you are or where you live so you take it with you wherever you go.”
The latest NHS Digital data, published on Sunday, shows Blackpool’s infection rate has risen to 57.5 cases per 100,000, which is double the rate a fortnight earlier and nearly twice England’s average. It recorded 80 new cases in the week to 17 September.
It is understood local leaders had expressed concern 1,000 spectators would be allowed into Blackpool Town’s Bloomfield Road stadium for the club’s League One match on Saturday as part of an English Football League (EFL) pilot.
The game was chosen as one of 10 EFL matches in England where 1,000 fans would be allowed back into the ground. In Hull, another area chosen for the pilot, the trial was pulled at the last minute after the city’s public health team refused to grant approval, due to safety concerns.
Large numbers of tourists flocked to Blackpool to visit the town’s illuminations, which have been extended to December. However, many visitors reported the town was “scarily rammed” and “packed to the rafters”, and that the promenade had been turned into a “Covid breeding ground”.
One said: “Many people predicted it and so it happened, it seemed everyone came to Blackpool last night. The only time I’ve seen it busier is when the Red Arrows were on. Not much in the way of social distancing or masks”. Another said: “Blackpool will be in local lockdown in 2 weeks time.”
Lynn Williams, the leader of Blackpool council, said the town was busy at the weekend but that “people will always flock to coastal resorts in good weather”. She added: “Blackpool welcomes visitors but it is essential that people follow the ‘hands, face, space’ requirements.”
Williams said other seaside resorts were similarly busy, including nearby St Anne’s. There had been reports of about 500 people queuing in that resort for fish and chips, she said. “We’ve put measures in place to make sure we’re absolutely as safe as we possibly can be. We’re still very much in crisis response mode and we will monitor it.”
A Lancashire police spokesman said: “I understand Blackpool was very busy yesterday, and is likely to be so again today. And while it isn’t for the police to ask people not to go there, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and people must stick to the regulations and follow social distancing to help us all return to some form of normality.
“Any businesses operating must ensure they do so in a Covid-secure way. We will continue, as we have done throughout, to engage and explain but we we will enforce where we need to.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Health official urges people not to flock to ‘heaving’ Blackpool | UK news