Southend Council is discouraging people from visiting the seaside and asking them to stay home as much as they can in the coming days and weeks, to help reduce crowds gathering and increasing the risk of spreading coronavirus.
It follows concerning reports of many groups gathering in the central seafront area and old Leigh yesterday, and also across seaside locations up and down the country.
The government announced new social distancing measures on Friday, including the closure of bars, restaurants and cafes, but councils nationally are waiting for the law to be enshrined next week and more details on the enforcement and licensing powers behind it.
The council’s community safety team and the Southend Police Town Centre Team were out all day yesterday talking to visitors and businesses, advising them about the measures. The same teams are doing the same today with the help of local traders.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council says: “We must all unite against coronavirus and observe the government guidance. It is clear from reports we have received that in pockets this is simply not happening, and people and some businesses are just not taking this seriously enough which is so disappointing.
“It is for this reason that we are taking the unprecedented step of actively discouraging people from visiting the seaside and gathering in crowds.
“We of course understand the attraction of visiting, but the risk of crowds gathering and queuing in large numbers at takeaways for example and spreading the virus is too great. In the absence of powers to do anything about this legally, we are using our public health responsibility to urge people not to visit at this time and if they do then we would strongly ask them to avoid busy areas of the seafront and try to find quieter areas where it is easier to keep apart from other people.
“Our officers, with the help of some local traders are also speaking to those offering takeaway services to pack away tables and chairs and ensure that customers who do come queue in a way that keeps people apart as far as possible.
Martin Richardson, from the Happidrome arcade on the seafront said: “I was concerned to see the amount of visitors and groups gathering yesterday.
“We will still be here when this is over and I would urge visitors to stop congregating and for traders risking public health by encouraging this to close as per the government guidance.”