Ahead of Easter bank holiday weekend, visitors to North Yorkshire’s coast and countryside are urged to be respectful and responsible and to avoid behaviour that could increase Covid-19 infections and jeopardise further lifting of lockdown restrictions.
On Monday (29 March), the ‘stay at home’ rule ended, but people were encouraged to minimise their journeys. Outdoor gatherings of up to six people or two households are allowed, but social distancing rules remain in place.
North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF), working with the county’s National Parks and tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, is reminding people of the importance of sticking to the guidance while enjoying the greater freedoms.
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, said: “Many of us are eager to take advantage of the easing of restrictions to get out into the open air. The opportunity to do so, and to meet limited friends and family, is good for our mental and physical wellbeing, but we must behave safely and responsibly.”
People who travel are reminded that many facilities will not be open. Public toilets may be closed and eating places can be used only as takeaways. Hand hygiene facilities will be limited. Outdoor hospitality will not open before 12 April.
To prevent overcrowding that could increase the risk of infection, please think twice about visiting tourist hotspots. If you arrive somewhere and find it busy, consider returning another day or going somewhere less crowded nearby.
Please respect the countryside and the people who live and work there. Park considerately and take litter home. Stick to paths, particularly when passing through farms or farmland.
Keep your Covid kit – face coverings and hand sanitiser – with you at all times. Maintain social distance and hand hygiene and wear face coverings where required.
Neil Heseltine, Chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “We are all too aware of how difficult the past year has been for everyone, but we can see real light at the end of the tunnel. However, we need to show patience and respect for others so we can all enjoy what I hope will be a wonderful summer.”
Tom Hind, Chief Executive of the North York Moors National Park commented: “We really welcome people back to the National Park and recognise the undoubted benefits to people’s health and wellbeing of spending time in nature in this beautiful landscape. We only ask you bring your considerate behaviour toward others with you, respect the local residents and farmers who live and work in the National Park, and follow the Countryside Code.”
Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire James Mason said: “As the days stay brighter for longer and lockdown has started to lift, the urge to get out and enjoy the beautiful county of Yorkshire is even more appealing than ever. We welcome and value visitors to the region’s vibrant cities, tempting towns, breathtaking countryside, spectacular coastline and encourage everyone to support local businesses who have been hit hard over the last year.
“However, it’s really important to please respect residents, follow the countryside code, take litter home and leave these stunning sites and lovely locations for others to enjoy. Stay safe everyone and have a great day out, following Government guidelines.”
Louise Wallace added: “While there is no limit on how far you can travel, we’re asking people to use their common sense to consider what is appropriate.
“Infection rates are still too high. Unnecessary social mixing will spread the virus and undo everyone’s hard work. Let’s keep going, so that we can continue to unlock summer.
“And remember, we cannot meet anyone from another household indoors. In the Government’s road map, this won’t be allowed until 17 May at the earliest.”
Fiona Phillips, Assistant Director for Public Health at City of York Council, said: “We are all enjoying the fact that we can see our friends and family again outside but we all still need to be careful to protect those we love and our communities. We all still have a role to play by minimising our travel, avoiding crowded spaces and remembering hands, face, space and fresh air.
“Please enjoy Easter safely so we can keep the people we love safe. Our efforts are making a difference and saving lives, they will also help to get more of the places we love open so please keep going and enjoy Easter safely.”
“It is important that whilst we look after our mental wellbeing, we also take care of our physical wellbeing, and are mindful of those around us. When meeting people outside please make sure you take home any litter you might generate, and please be considerate to others with your behaviour.”
Chief Inspector Charlotte Bloxham, the silver commander for North Yorkshire Police’s response to the pandemic, said: “Everyone can expect to see an increased policing presence as we work alongside our partners to help keep the virus at bay in the weeks and months ahead.
“The new Steps Regulations say that people must minimise travel to reduce the risk of infection. The Government has not defined a distance that would constitute a breach, so it is down to each and every person to make a judgement call about if a journey is absolutely necessary and the risks it poses in the context of the public health crisis that we are still facing.
“From a policing point of view, we will keep using the ‘4 Es’ approach to engage, explain the regulations, encourage compliance and enforce if there is blatant disregard to the regulations.
“Our plea to everyone this Easter is to be extremely careful and to keep following the regulations until it is safe to resume a more normal way of living – we have come too far and made too many sacrifices for this effort to be wasted now.”
Those visiting the countryside are reminded that this is the season for lambs, calves and ground nesting birds, so particular care needs to be taken in ensuring your dog or excitable puppy is under control, preferably keeping them on a lead. The latest version of the Countryside Code can be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code
Find Covid-19 information for North Yorkshire at www.northyorks.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-and-information and the full Government road map at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021/covid-19-response-spring-2021-summary