The Government has decided that people can now drive as far as they wish in a day because of the benefits they will gain from having access to fresh air and outdoor environments for both their mental and physical health.
To do this does not require people to drive long distances so I cannot understand why the Government did not set a limit to the distance that can be driven. I believe that it would be prudent to do this for the following reasons:
- The longer the car journey the greater the risk of an accident or breakdown occurring which could require attendance by police, ambulance and breakdown services;
- Cafes, restaurants and pubs are closed at arrival destinations such as Keswick so visitors will go to local shops and supermarkets to buy refreshments. Social distancing measures at these places already mean that residents must queue to enter these retail outlets so visitors would exacerbate this and increase the infection risk to local people;
- Public toilets are closed at arrival destinations. This means that in Keswick Booths is the only place with public access toilets so could become over-used if we get a large influx of visitors and become a hot spot for the spread of Covid 19;
- Accidents to visitors walking in the hills and mountains will mean local emergency services, including mountain rescue volunteers (some of whom work in the NHS), will have to attend and in doing so personnel will be burdened with extra work and infection risk;
- There is evidence that R is higher in some regions than others which means allowing people to drive for long distances could run the risk of increasing R in areas where it is lower;
- A distance limit would make policing the lockdown much simpler (it seems that the new guidelines make them powerless to do much at all apart from explanation and persuasion).
Matters have now been made worse for Keswick following the decision by Allerdale Council, despite the protestations of our local councillors, to open car parks. The Lake District National Park and the National Trust have done the same yet are urging visitors not to come to the Lake District as are Cumbria Police and Cumbria Tourism.
Let us hope this advice and the common sense of potential visitors prevails so that Keswick remains quiet this weekend. The time to welcome visitors back and businesses to open will be when an effective Covid 19 test, track and trace system is rolled out across the UK.