The Police and Crime Commissioner for one of the country’s most visited areas has backed calls for tourists and second home owners to stay away this Easter and to consider making properties available for the coronavirus response.
The Devon and Cornwall Police force has more domestic visitors than any other in the UK and a high proportion of elderly residents classed as vulnerable to coronavirus (Covid-19).
Despite restrictions on people’s movement residents have reported that some holiday accommodation providers are continuing to trade, and Devon and Cornwall Police has challenged some who have been travelling to the Westcountry for holidays.
This concern shared by other tourism hotspots across the UK has attracted national attention and the hashtag #ComeBackLater is trending on social media.
Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has added her voice to those calling for both tourists and second home owners to stay in their primary residences until restrictions are lifted.
She is also asking for anyone with empty property in the area to make it available for key workers and victims of crime and play a key role in helping us to keep people safe at this critical time.
“In Devon and Cornwall our economy absolutely depends on tourism, and this time of year usually marks the start of a period that sees us hosting more domestic visitors than any other area,” she said.
“This year, unfortunately, the message is that coming here now will just put strain on essential services at a time when we least need it. I am concerned by reports that people are seeing Devon and Cornwall as good locations to see out the lockdown. That is not the case, people are safer in their primary residences, where they are registered with medical practices and have support networks. The 1.7m residents of Devon and Cornwall will also be safer if people stay away.”
There are a number of exemptions which allow some holiday accommodation businesses to remain open, for example, to provide accommodation for key workers, NHS staff and for health and care use. The commissioner said she had been heartened by examples like that of the Carnmarth Hotel in Newquay, which has been providing a place to stay for hospital leavers.
“Now I am asking other accommodation providers or those who have second homes to consider letting key workers such as NHS staff or police officers to stay in their properties,” she said. NHS or police workers are being moved around as part of the response to this crisis so could make good use of any empty holiday properties.”
Recognising the huge community spirit right across the country she is also urging businesses to look how they can help local authorities to secure housing for people who cannot stay in their own homes. It is possible there will be a national rise in domestic violence so temporary accommodation for these individuals may be required.
“When the restrictions are over we will be welcoming visitors back with open arms, but right now we implore you to stay away and come back later,” she added.
“When the restrictions are over we will be welcoming visitors back with open arms.”
Councillor Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, said: “We understand that this epidemic, and the essential restrictions that have had to have been put in place, will have significant impacts on businesses in the tourist sector and the wider Cornish economy, and we are here to provide help and advice to help businesses to survive it.
“One of the ways that we can work with accommodation providers and they can help at this extraordinary time is by making that accommodation available to those in need and those on the frontline of the fightback against this crisis.”
The overwhelming majority of holiday accommodation providers, such as self- catering businesses, bed and breakfasts, caravan parks, hotels, campsites and holiday homes in Devon and Cornwall have shut their doors.
Cornwall Council is among local authorities which has written to all holiday accommodation owners, letting agents and online booking platforms in its area who are not exempt to Covid-19 orders to ask for their cooperation in complying with orders to close that are designed to reduce travel.
North Devon District Council today (April 3) joined others to advise accommodation providers that it would shut down any business that continued to trade in breach of the government’s emergency legislation.
Devon County Council said it “recognises the importance of the tourism sector for Devon” but it is urging people to stay at home, stay safe and wait until Covid-19 restrictions are lifted before paying a visit to the county.
Guidance for employees, employers and businesses on surviving the epidemic has been published by the Government and can be found here.
Accommodation providers wanting to offer their properties for key workers or victims of crime should get in touch with their upper tier authority. Cornwall council has specific advice regarding its ‘call for accommodation’ which can be found here.