Authorities in Bournemouth, a popular beach town in southern England, have declared a “major incident” over what they called the irresponsible behaviour of crowds who had ignored public health guidance on coronavirus and badly overstretched local services.
The declaration came after visitors arrived in very large numbers in a spell of hot weather, resulting in gridlock on the roads, illegal overnight camping, excessive waste, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled fights.
“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” said Council Leader Vikki Slade in a statement on Thursday.
“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.”
Social distancing measures have been in place in Britain since March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, although the rules are due to be significantly relaxed from July 4.
With pubs still closed, many people have been heading to parks and beaches to meet friends and drink alcohol, in some cases ignoring advice to keep two metres apart.
In Bournemouth, roads were obstructed by illegal parking, crews were abused as they attempted to empty overflowing bins and 33 tonnes of waste had to be removed from the stretch of coastline in and around the town on Thursday morning.
Britain’s official death toll from confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by 149 to 43,230, the Department of Health said on Thursday.
Including deaths from suspected cases of the disease, the death toll is more than 54,000.