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THOUSANDS flocked to coastal resorts across Britain today — many by train — in the latest damning indictment of the government’s chaotic Covid-19 messaging.
Over the sun-drenched weekend, rail workers reported that packed trains were disgorging “hordes of families and groups of teens” in the northern resort of Blackpool.
Similar scenes were reported on the railways in Bournemouth and Southend in southern England, where beaches were crowded with people.
In Bournemouth, Dorset, extra British Transport Police were drafted in to control crowds.
And scores of sunbathers arrived at Durdle Door yesterday despite authorities declaring it “closed” after an accident on Saturday.
Mick Cash, general secretary of rail union RMT, said that “confused and conflicting messaging from Boris Johnson and his government has led to a huge surge in passengers and dangerous and predictable chaos” on rail services.
The government’s latest guidance on preventing spread of the virus says that, from today, people can “spend time outdoors, including private gardens and other outdoor spaces, in groups of up to six people from different households, following social-distancing guidelines.”
But the reality was seen yesterday as crowds packed onto trains heading for the coast — completely ignoring the guidance — following the unpunished example of PM Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings.
And the easing of the lockdown in Britain comes despite it having the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.
Latest figures showed that the UK had 324 Covid-19 deaths in a 24-hour period up to 5pm on Thursday, putting the total past 38,000. Among other European nations recording far lower totals, Italy had 87, Ireland six and Spain just two.
Mr Cash said: “This is the Cummings effect in action. The public clocking the hypocrisy and lies of the government and packing on trains to sunny seaside resorts with lethal consequences in the battle against Covid-19.
“It is transport workers who find themselves at the eye of the storm whipped up by the government’s shambolic and mixed messaging over the lockdown, while the Prime Minister and his top boy skulk about in the Downing Street rose garden.
“The collapse of this government’s authority and credibility is there for all to see in the pictures of the rammed-out trains and beaches all around the coastal hotspots from Blackpool to Bournemouth.”
One rail worker said yesterday: “The inevitable has happened. Hordes of families and groups of teens to twenty-odd year-olds are flooding into Blackpool.
“There’s not a single thought about social distancing at all.
“One two-car train carried over 60 passengers …
“At Blackpool North station I witnessed a train from [Stockport suburb] Hazel Grove unload, apparently 76 passengers off at Blackpool, nearly all families with pushchairs and kids in tow.
“At Preston, a train bound for Blackpool was rammed according to the driver. The majority on at Wigan and once again another family excursion.
“Some who boarded at [Lancashire town] Kirkham were standing in the doorways.
“This surely can’t be acceptable. If they were on my train I would have had to have asked 20 or more to leave at Preston.
“We need help here.”
More problems were anticipated today as primary schools reopened for pupils in reception and years one and six.
Dozens of local authorities – including Sheffield in South Yorkshire – have advised schools to ignore the government’s call. Others have left the decision to headteachers.
The National Education Union (NEU) says that schools should not reopen unless five conditions on safety are met, including maintenance of social distancing in schools — which it argues the government has not met.
And it comes as the government’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned on Saturday that Britain is facing “a very dangerous moment” with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
He called on people to show restraint as shutdown measures are eased in England from today.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended easing the guidance yesterday amid concerns about a fresh wave of infections, saying: “This is a sensitive moment. We can’t just stay in lockdown forever. We have got to transition.”
And the government is to set to allow the 2.2 million extremely vulnerable people “shielding” from coronavirus to venture out for the first time in months from today.
Those considered extremely vulnerable will be able to go outside with members of their household, despite evidence that the pandemic still poses a severe threat.
They include people with cancer, transplant recipients and severe asthma.
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