Dorset currently has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country, but it has a large older population with many people having underlying health conditions which make them more vulnerable to the virus.
The latest government guidelines prohibit people from staying overnight at any place that isn’t their main home.
The RNLI has said that lifeguards will not be on beaches and is advising people not to swim or take part in water sports.
Last weekend saw traffic levels across Dorset that were 40 per cent lower than a usual May weekend. Generally, the numbers of people at beaches and beauty spots were manageable and most managed to maintain social distancing. However, there were issues in a number of areas including Lulworth, Portland and West Bexington with irresponsible behaviour by visitors such as illegal parking, littering and lack of social distancing. And sadly since the weekend, and with the good weather, the number of visitors to the county appears to be increasing significantly.
In response to the changing situation over the past week, Dorset Council is reopening some car parks and public toilets in key locations in time for the bank holiday weekend to help cope with demand. The usual charges will apply at these car parks.
The council also plans to re-open car parks at its country parks on Tuesday 26 May, as part of the phased re-opening of Dorset.
Dorset Council continues to encourage the use of contactless payment for parking via phone-call, text message or smartphone app as the safest way to avoid spread of the virus. However, in response to public requests, the council is reinstating cash and card payment methods for drivers who do not use a mobile phone.
Visitors who choose to pay by cash or card do so at their own risk. People are strongly encouraged to wash their hands both before and after using the machines to lower the chance of infection.
Dorset Council’s Leader, Cllr Spencer Flower, said, “We continue to ask visitors to Think Twice about coming to our county at this time.
“Striking the balance between looking after the safety and health of all our residents while discouraging the mass gathering of people at our many beautiful tourist destinations will remain difficult for the foreseeable future.”
Councillor Vikki Slade, Leader of BCP Council, said, “The lifting of restrictions nationally has meant people can travel to the beach. We made the conscious decision to open our seafront facilities including car parks for local people to use.
“We understand people are keen to get to the beach but the message is simple – if you get to the beach and it’s too busy then please head home. The beach will still be here for you to enjoy at other times.”
Some toilets along the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole seafront will be open and residents are advised to carry their own wipes and hand sanitisers.
Beach hut tenants have been advised to keep the promenade clear and place tables and chairs on the beach to maintain access for other beach users.
Catering outlets providing a takeaway service including private businesses have also been advised to keep the promenade clear of any seating.
Enhanced signage is in place advising beach users to keep to the two-metre social distancing, and seafront teams will continue to patrol the promenade. People can expect to see an increase in Seafront Rangers.
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