Coronavirus: Millions planning weekend trips after easing of lockdown rules in England but many beauty spots fear crowds

For the first time in eight weeks, people in England will be able to enjoy a little extra freedom this weekend after lockdown measures were eased – but they have been warned to “think carefully”.

Since Wednesday, people have no longer been limited to one opportunity to exercise outdoors each day, a rule that had been in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

They can also drive to beaches and beauty spots in England, alone or with members of the same household, and can meet up with one other person from a different household, as long as it is in a park or outdoor space and both individuals are at least two metres apart from each other.

Anyone who does hit the road will also benefit from the lowest fuel prices since 2016, with an average of 107.5p per litre for petrol and 114.8p per litre for diesel.

These factors, along with a forecast for good weather, are expected to see around 15 million drivers head onto the roads over the weekend.

The number is based on a survey by the RAC but spokesman Rod Dennis said he would have expected numbers to be higher.

He said: “In normal times, the weather warming up in time for the weekend would spell traffic jams on routes leading to tourist hotspots.

“These figures suggest that’s less likely this weekend, with the vast majority of drivers we surveyed not jumping at the chance to drive very much further afield.

“Most are choosing to stay very local indeed or even not getting in the car in the first place, which bodes well for control of the coronavirus.”

The government’s scientific advisers have warned that the rate of virus infection is creeping up and if that rate – known as the R value – gets any higher, lockdown measures may have to be toughened again.

This and fear of being overwhelmed by crowds of Britons seeking their first trips away in two months have prompted some popular regions to issue warnings.

People have been told to remember the importance of social distancing and to continue to avoid large gatherings.

The city of London

Coronavirus: R levels creeping up

On Thursday Cleveland Police and North Yorkshire Police issued statements alongside the North York Moors National Park Authority warning that most facilities there will be closed this weekend.

Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker, of Cleveland Police, said: “Please think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others.”

South Downs National Park has asked people to tackle pollution by keeping visits to the park car-free.

The Peak District National Park said that people should give the area “crucial breathing space to recover by staying local” and that many facilities will remain closed.

We’re asking would be visitors to please stay away.

Don’t visit North Somerset. Not at the moment. We don’t wish you were here and we’re not open for visitors.

Our priority and our main concern is protecting the health and wellbeing of our local communities.

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— North Somerset Council (@NorthSomersetC) May 13, 2020

After the prime minister’s announcement on the changes to lockdown restrictions in England, the Lake District National Park Authority’s chief executive, Richard Leafe, told visitors “not to rush back”, to avoid putting pressure on the community and mountain rescue teams.

Mike France, senior executive officer of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, added: “Just because the government says you can go out, it doesn’t mean you should.

“No matter how much exercise people have been taking at home, in their gardens or local to home during lockdown, most of them may not be as hill fit as they were three months ago.”

In a North Somerset Council news release entitled “Wish you weren’t here”, deputy leader Cllr Mike Bell said on Wednesday: “North Somerset is not open for visitors. We don’t want people to travel into North Somerset from outside the area for day trips and instead want to encourage them to use outdoor spaces nearer to where they live.

“We’re not open for tourists – pubs, restaurants, hotels and B&Bs are all still closed. Our focus is on protecting the community here in North Somerset who have worked so hard to do the right thing in staying at home.”

He added: “This won’t be forever though, and when the time is right we’ll be ready and waiting to give visitors a very warm welcome again in Weston-super-Mare and North Somerset.”

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The Maritime and Coastguard Agency also warned that most beaches will not have lifeguards.

Brighton and Hove City Council has asked people to “stay away” from the beachfront, Visit Cornwall has encouraged people not to travel more than an hour from their local area, and Visit Weston-super-Mare has changed its slogan to “don’t visit Weston-super-Mare”.

Lockdown rules in Wales and Scotland have not changed and the RAC said that England’s drivers should “regard the borders to these countries as effectively closed for leisure trips or potentially face a fine”.

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