Matt Hancock has warned the public that the UK government has the power to completely close beaches if social distancing measures continue to be ignored following on from a 'major incident' being declared in Bournemouth yesterday.
In the threats, the Health Secretary said that officials were 'perfectly prepared' to 'take action' after thousands flocked to beaches for the hottest day of the year so far.
In an interview with TalkRadio, Mr Hancock said: "We do have that power [to close beaches]. I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown and I want everybody to enjoy the sunshine.
"But the key is to do it with respect for the rules - stay with your household, stay a good distance from other households."
He also said that if there is a second spike in the number of Covid-19 cases 'then we will take action', adding that the coronavirus 'does not respect that it's a hot summer's day'.
The comments came after after thousands of people descended on Bournemouth beaches, defying the advice to stay away.
This resulted in the council declaring a 'major incident' with a multi-agency emergency response being activated to co-ordinate resources across the area to tackle the issues amid the coronavirus crisis.
COVID-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation.- Professor Chris Whitty (@CMO_England) June 25, 2020
If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.
Services were left completely overstretched as visitors arrived in large volumes, resulting in widespread problems of illegal parking, excessive waste, anti-social behaviour, gridlock on roads and prohibited overnight camping.
BCP Council issued 558 parking enforcement fines - the highest on record - and responded to many reports of cars parking and causing an obstruction.
Roads in and out of the area were heavily congested into the early hours of the morning.
It was also claimed that crews received widespread abuse and intimidation as they attempted to empty overflowing bins on the seafront.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council Leader Vikki Slade said: "We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours.
"The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response."
She added: "We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now or to deal with the full range of problems associated with managing volumes of people like this. PLEASE do not come. We are not able to welcome you yet."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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