Northumberland councillor urges people to stay at home to save lives as hundreds descend on countryside and empty supermarket shelves

Footage shows overflowing car parks at Northumberland’s beauty spots as hundreds descend during social distancing measures.

Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 6:14 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 6:14 pm

Now Steven Bridgett, councillor for Rothbury, is urging people to think of the elderly residents, who are among the most at risk of coronavirus, as they descend on Northumberland’s beauty spots and villages.

The Government told cafes, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, leisure centres and gyms to close on Friday, March 20 in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus across the UK.

But this weekend, despite government advice asking the public to ‘stay home to save lives’, Northumberland has seen an influx of visitors to its beauty spots, towns and villages.

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Lordenshaws Car Park is overflowing with visitors.

Instead Coun Bridgett says the car parks and villages have been as busy as if it were a sunny Bank Holiday weekend and it’s putting his residents at risk.

Coun Bridgett said: “Lordenshaws, Simonside, Alwinton and Hepple car parks have all been absolutely rammed.

“Many of these people have been descending on the Co-op in Rothbury and ‘helping’ to strip the shelves.”

Coun Bridgett says the Rothbury ward has one of the oldest populations in the whole county.

Visitors have flooded to Northumberland. Picture of Rothbury High Street.

“This area is very remote and is sparsely populated which would have helped us slow the spread – it could have worked in our favour,” he said.

“We’ve got people from all across the North East travelling up here and my residents are coming into contact with them while they’re out trying to do their necessary shopping.

“On a normal sunny Sunday in March you would not see as many people in the area.”

The councillor, whose ward includes Rothbury, Coquetdale, Whittingham Vale, Glanton & Elsdon in rural Northumberland, is calling for measures to be taken to close car parks to help tackle the problem and says the National Trust had closed Cragside following an influx of visitors on Saturday, March 21.

Visitors have been using shops in Rothbury

He’s also calling on other organisations to take action and close car parks.

“The best thing we can do is to discourage people from visiting the area. If that means we have to put concrete blocks at the entrance to the car parks then fair enough,” said Coun Bridgett.

“For my elderly residents’ safety and health I would ask people to be really considerate. This obviously has the potential to adversely effect residents of an ageing group.

“It’s a stunning and beautiful area and we would be more than happy to welcome people to the area in other circumstances.”

Adding: “Someone sent me a message who has to self isolate because they have very serious underlying health conditions and they said it’s not the virus that scares them the most - it’s people’s stupidity and ignorance.”

The latest figures show that there at 10 confirmed cases in Northumberland as the total number in the UK rose to more than 5,000 on Saturday, March 21.

Tourism boards across the country have taken measures to reduce numbers of visitors.

A statement from Visit Cornwall said: “Despite the lack of clarity from the Government, Visit Cornwall is advising that visitors should not come to Cornwall at this time.”