Posted: 03.07.20 at 12:10 by Francesca Evans
As lockdown restrictions ease further this weekend, senior politicians, public health and police leads are urging the Devon public to stay safe.
Pubs, restaurants, some leisure facilities and tourist attractions are allowed to reopen from Saturday, so long as they adhere to national public health guidelines.
Holiday accommodation sites can also reopen, and with visitors able to stay overnight, the expectation is that the county will see a significant rise in traffic on our roads.
While not expected to be as busy as nearby seaside resorts, Axminster is still preparing for more businesses to open this weekend.
Councillor John Hart, leader of Devon County Council and chairman of Devon’s Local Outbreak Management Plan’s Engagement Board, said: “The tourism industry is worth about £2 billion a year to the Devon economy and provides employment for many tens of thousands of our residents.
“We are seeing businesses preparing to re-open - holiday accommodation, as well as many of our pubs and restaurants that will be opening their doors this weekend for the first time in months.
“Businesses have been working hard to ensure that when they reopen, they do so safely. But while they are doing what they can, the responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe lies also with each and every one of us.
“This weekend, we must remember that we are still within the coronavirus pandemic. And while the numbers of confirmed cases and tragic deaths in the county as a consequence of this virus remain very low, COVID-19 has not yet gone away.
“We have done so well so far and Devon has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“We do not want to go backwards. We do not want to see case numbers rising. So in anticipation of our high streets and tourist destinations becoming busier again from this weekend, I urge Devon residents and guests to continue their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Dr Virginia Pearson, director of Public Health Devon and chairman of Devon’s multi-agency COVID-19 Health Protection Board, commented: “Devon has done well to maintain low case numbers, despite the gradual easing of restrictions over the past few weeks. But we must all, whether Devon resident or visiting the county, be vigilant in order to prevent spread of the virus."
Dr Pearson advised the public to adhere to the following safety measures:
• Please keep your distance from people outside of your household - two metres is still best
• Wash your hands regularly and properly with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser if you can’t wash your hands
• If you have to sneeze, use a disposable tissue and ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’
• Wear a face covering at all times on public transport and in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible, such as shops
• Try to avoid crowded, enclosed spaces
• Try to avoid being face-to-face with people outside of your household or support bubble and only meet up with recommended numbers of people
She added: “Working alongside the national NHS Test and Trace programme, local plans are in place to help us identify new cases as they arise, and to control infection to prevent it from spreading.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely and as much as we would all like to get back to normal as soon as possible, we must remain on our guard in order to stop this virus spreading.”
Shaun Sawyer, Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “I know that our world class tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated by the COVID pandemic and there is a desperate need to welcome tourists back to our peninsula and islands.
“But this needs to be done safely and appreciating the fears our resident communities may have with many thousands of people coming back to our region – with the health concerns this may bring.
“We follow government advice and guidance as to what is safe, but we would ask all people – whether you are a visitor, resident or business - to be respectful and begin to enjoy parts of life none of us has experienced since the end of March.”