People from areas with high infection rates asked to stay away from Norfolk - for now
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Tourists from parts of the country with higher levels of coronavirus are being asked not to travel to East Anglia during the half term holiday.
It comes as one of the region’s MPs calls on the government to tighten its latest restrictions to ban people from worst-affected areas from overnight stays in parts of the country with lower infection rates.
The autumn break, which begins in 10 days’ time, will be one of the last chances in 2020 for attractions hit by lockdown to make up money lost earlier in the year.
But the boss of Visit East of England, which promotes tourism across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, said those thinking of travelling from areas with high infection levels should stay away.
Pete Waters, the group’s executive director, said: “We would discourage people from travelling from locked-down areas. If they could refrain from coming that would be appreciated, we’ll still be here next year. They need to think about the people who live here.”
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Mr Waters said despite a strong recovery over the summer, businesses were still desperate for money.
Visit East of England is set to launch a campaign promoting ‘Unexplored England’ aimed at attracting visitors over the autumn and winter.
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It is set to target areas of the Home Counties north of London, where infection rates are currently low.
An area south of a line drawn from King’s Lynn to Bristol remains at so-called medium risk - the lowest category of the new three tier system which now determines the level of restrictions. It includes the whole of Norfolk.
Elsewhere, vast swathes of northern England and the Midlands are in Tier Two - the high risk bracket, where people are being asked to observe a ban on households mixing indoors and overnight stays.
Those in Tier Three - classed as at very high risk, are also being asked to avoid non-essential travel.
Asked being the operative word. For while more than 30pc of the population now fall into the two higher risk categories, it is not illegal for them to travel to lower-risk areas on holiday.
In Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford has been demanding a ban on people travelling to the principality from Covid hotspots in England.
Mr Drakeford said he had evidence he would share with Boris Johnson that such travel did help the virus to spread.
“I don’t want it to be a border issue,” he said. “People in England in high incidence areas should not be going to low incidence areas in England, either.”
Welsh politicians have used their delegated powers to prevent non-essential travel to and from areas of Wales with high levels of infection, effectively closing them to tourists.
No such powers exist in East Anglia, parts of which have a low infection rate making them attractive to visitors coupled with a higher proportion of older people more susceptible to the virus if an outbreak flares.
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said: “The guidance that we have is that people are advised against overnight stays but in my view it needs to go further.
“If we make things advisory, I have real concern over whether they will be adhered to. I am calling on the government to go further and rather than make it advisory say you are prohibited from going to other areas from your higher infection rate area.”
Sarah Butikofer, leader of North Norfolk council, said: “I would respectfully ask people if they are in areas with high infection rates to think seriously before they travel.
“It’s a really difficult one because we obviously need visitors, but at the same time if we have visitors from the wrong areas we will end up with a high infection rate.”
An informal poll, carried out on the EDP’s Facebok page, the majority of those responding agreed with tighter restrictions.
When lockdown was announced in March it included a ban on non-essential travel. Posters appeared around some coastal villages urging locals to report visitors staying in holiday lets to police.
Tony Foster, who runs the Village Information Network at Holme-next-the-Sea, near Hunstanton, has circulated details of the newly-announced three tier restrictions to villagers.
Mr Foster said the village had quietened down since the summer months.
“The weather’s made a huge difference,” he said. “We’ve not got many visitors at the moment but we’re still seeing more visitors than usual at this time of year.”
It remains to be seen whether fresh signs will appear targeting those from higher risk areas. The originals were not authorised by the parish council.
“A person decided to put them up,” said Mr Foster. “It’s very difficult to speak for an individual.”