The government has told city dwellers to not break travel restrictions by going to their second homes, with coastal and rural communities becoming increasingly frustrated at being overrun by wealthy coronavirus refugees.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government laid out that Britons should remain in their “primary residence”, and not travel to their “second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar”. The guidance explained: “Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove gave a stern warning to second-home owners on Sky News on Tuesday, saying in no uncertain terms should they be risking “spreading the virus across the country and nor should they risk putting a strain on the NHS in other parts of the country. The advice is clear: stay at home.”
However, The Times reports that second-homers from London continue to flood into rural and coastal areas, including to Wales, Cornwall, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Scotland, despite the travel restrictions.
This has led to many locals calling for tighter restrictions to keep them safe. Twenty-seven miles outside of the popular tourist destination of Conwy, one resident had strung a banner under a road sign reading: “Wales is closed.”
The town’s tourism board is also urging visitors to stay away, with their website banner reading: “Visit Conwy. Later.”
The website continued: “Please do not visit Wales at this time and avoid all unnecessary travel within Wales. Following these guidelines will save lives. We look forward to welcoming you back in future; but for now, let’s all #staysafe.”
Welsh doctor Eilir Hughes told the BBC last week that an increased number of second-home owners returning to Gwynedd was putting pressure on local healthcare services, saying: “It really does place a great strain on our infrastructure and our services.”
Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts also said last week that she was “extremely concerned” at reports of a substantial increase in the population of areas in her constituency which she put down to holiday homeowners.
While reports in Kent of overcrowded seaside towns this weekend — before Prime Minister Johnson’s enforced lockdown — prompted Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield to condemn visitors for completely ignoring social distancing recommendations, saying: “This is NOT OKAY!… This is a DEADLY virus — stop spreading it to my vulnerable constituents!”
— Simon Jones (@SimonJonesNews) March 23, 2020
The Labour MP later backed the prime minister’s orders for people to stay in their primary residences, saying: “Those second-homers who’ve descended to the Kent coast in droves are putting the lives of my constituents at real risk as they don’t seem to understand that #StayHomeSavesLives applies to them too!”
The Scottish government expressed fury over the weekend at the influx of travellers to the islands and Highlands.
Fergus Ewing, tourism secretary and MSP for Inverness and Nairn, said: “I am furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highland and Islands. This has to stop now.
“Let me be crystal clear — people should not be travelling to rural and island communities, full stop. They are endangering lives. Do not travel.”
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) March 24, 2020
While the Mirror reports that residents in St Ives, Cornwall, have written messages for second-homers in the sand, one reading “Locals Only!” another saying, “Tourists Please Go Home.”
Similar exoduses were seen in the United States, where America’s elite took to their private jets to fly into Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and other summer colonies for rich and powerful, leaving residents upset at the prospect of their supermarkets being cleaned out or their local hospitals being overwhelmed if there is an outbreak.