Visitors are being urged to stay away from the Lake District this bank holiday weekend in a bid to help Cumbria tackle one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the UK.
Death certificates show that 296 people died in Cumbria as a result of COVID-19 from 1st March to last Sunday, while 186 are currently in hospital receiving treatment.
The county’s infection rate of 391 per 100,000 people is now among the UK’s worst – and that figure is likely to significantly under represent the true number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in Cumbria, according to the Lake District National Park Authority.
The situation is so serious ahead of the May bank holiday weekend, starting on Friday, that the authority’s chief executive Richard Leafe issued a stark warning for visitors – that’s day-trippers as well as accommodation-users – not to come to the Lake District in breach of the Government’s lockdown guidance. He says Lake District communities are banking on tourists to stay at home, otherwise it will cost more lives.
“Usually at this time of year we’d be offering a warm welcome to visitors but the Lake District, like the rest of the world, is not immune to the devastating effects of this pandemic. Sadly we’ve noticed an increase in the number of people travelling, camping and breaking the guidance recently, which puts our communities and each other at risk. Please continue to stay at home – we will be here to welcome you back as soon as the time is right,” he said.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “Since the start of March, nearly 300 local people have died from COVID-19, with many still in hospital receiving treatment, and people continue to die both in hospital and in the community. It is only because people have behaved responsibly and followed the guidance that there have not been many more deaths or people infected.
“There continues to be a risk to people in our communities, especially those who are vulnerable due to age or ill health and following the ‘stay at home’ guidance is as much about protecting them as protecting yourself. While we’re seeing a slowing of the number of deaths and it looks like we may be past the peak in our hospitals, we can’t yet say the same about the wider community. We could easily see more infections and deaths if we don’t stick with the current measures.”
Cumbria Police and the county council as well as the park authority have reported an increase in the number of people travelling to and around the Lake District. Cumbria Police’s assistant chief constable Andrew Slattery, who is chairman of the county’s strategic co-ordinating group, said: “People are still suffering and dying in our hospitals and care homes. This is why following the Government advice remains so important. We are seeing too many people focusing on what actions could result in a fine instead of the purpose of the Government restrictions; preventing the virus spreading and saving people’s lives, including your own or those of your loved ones.”
Gill Haigh, Cumbria Tourism’s managing director, added: “We urge people to stay home – no matter how tempting it may be. Our mountains, lakes, attractions and hotels will still be here to welcome tourists and when it is once again safe to travel our businesses look forward to welcoming you back – but that time is not now.”