Despite government advice to stay home and travel only when necessary, many tourists have visited the area in recent weeks.
The story sparked an angry reaction on social media, with furious comments directed at tourists who seem to ignore Devon and Cornwall’s call that they #comebacklater.
As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, there is an increased awareness of the protection of lives here in Devon and Cornwall against a potential influx of visitors during the Easter period.
The Cornwall Council tweeted yesterday: “We ask all visitors to stay away from Cornwall for the time being and play your part in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
“We will be delighted to welcome you again once you can do so safely.”
Devon County Council also sent a message to vacationers and owners of second homes.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Clrr John Hart said, “As we head into Easter, we want to send a very clear message to vacationers and owners of second homes – Devon and South- West are closed.
“We will welcome you with open arms when everything is finished, but for now, stay away.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people that he “should stay home”, with these exceptions:
- Purchases for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, which should be as infrequent as possible
Some form of exercise per day, such as running, walking or biking – alone or with members of your household. Police said you should not go to this place
Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
travel to and from work, but only when it cannot be done from home
Even when doing these activities, you should minimize the time spent outside the home and make sure you are two meters away from anyone outside your home, says the NHS.
“We currently have low rates of coronavirus infection in the Southwest but, if you come here, you have a chance to take it with you and we don’t want it in any way.
“We want to get the message out loud and we want our MPs to stop the organizations that still advertise the holidays here.”
Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labor opposition group, added: “It is very detrimental and irresponsible for people to come to the Southwest for vacation homes or second homes and we want more spot checks on the police at our borders.
“We have a lot of elderly people here who are most susceptible. We are at the bottom of the regional tables for coronavirus infection and we want to keep it that way.”
The Cornwall tourism boss said he wanted to make sure the “simple message” got through that no one should be visiting the county right now.
And he warned that if people don’t start following directions, Cornwall could lose 80% of its tourism business, worth £ 1.3 billion.
He said, “Easter will not happen – that is what we are trying to get the public to understand. We need people to stop thinking that Easter is Easter.
“It is going to be an Easter like none of us have ever seen – you cannot go to church, you cannot visit family, you cannot go anywhere other than your immediate area.
“The whole of April will not be part of the Cornwall tourist season.”
Devon and Cornwall police have also announced that officers will be patrolling the Devon and Cornwall roads.
Any vacationer or owner of a second home caught traveling in the region for the Easter weekend will be fined and will refuse entrysaid the force.
The Commander-in-Chief of Devon and Cornwall, Deputy Chief Constable Glen Mayhew, said, “With regard to the holiday weekend, I want to be clear with our message: stay home and don’t start trips that are not essential.
“My agents will continue to be visible in our towns and villages and we will monitor the roads. We understand that people may have second homes in Devon or Cornwall, but we urge you not to go to these cities.
“Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, campsites, caravan parks or the like, whether for solitary confinement or vacation. People must stay in their primary residence.”
Superintendent Ch Drummond-Smith confirmed that those found on vacation in the county in violation of the restrictions can expect a fine.
“Our officers will patrol this weekend, first on the M5 and A30 to prevent visitors from entering the force zone, then locally to enforce the restrictions,” he said.
“We will do it in a fair and balanced manner, but traveling to the western country is a serious violation of these restrictions and those who do so can expect to be fined.”
In March, Cornwall Live, Devon Live and Plymouth Live launched the #comebacklater campaign with regional MPs, tourism leaders and emergency services.
The campaign has three main objectives which we call on all visitors to commit to:
Help stop the spread of the crown and save lives
Protect our NHS from further pressure
Support our tourism industry by promising to return later this year, not now
In the Southwest, we not only have a high proportion of seniors living here, those who are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, but we also have NHS trusts that are stretched to capacity without any additional pressure.
The Royal Cornwall Hospital often sees a large influx of patients during busy vacation periods and is particularly aware of the pressure that additional pressure could add during the coronavirus crisis if there is a high number of people traveling in the county.
A spokesperson for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals said, “We urge people not to use social isolation as a reason to come to Cornwall. Our hospitals could quickly be overwhelmed if our population were swollen by an influx of people from other parts of the country.
“Please #comebacklater and give our healthcare professionals a chance to fight to do their best for those who live here – our staff, our families.”
In a joint statement, Philippa Jenkins, editor of Cornwall Live, Rich Booth, editor of Devon Live and Edd Moore, regional digital editor, said: “We are all living in unprecedented times and, as as such, we all need to take action that we probably never thought or hoped we would have to do with our lives.
“To fight the coronavirus, we make the decision not to see our family and friends, not to go on vacation and not to spend time in a crowded space.
“These are all very difficult changes in our daily lives, but the ones that will save thousands of lives faster we will act and end the epidemic sooner.
“There is a very real impact on our tourism industry here in Devon and Cornwall because of this, but the more people who commit to coming back later in the year, the more likely we are to secure our successful businesses for generations to come. “
“Please join us in staying united as we fight this terrible infection.”