POLITICIANS last night urged caution ahead of today’s major easing of England’s lockdown to allow far greater freedom outdoors.
Friends and families will be reunited and team sports will resume, groups of up to six – or two households – will be able to socialise in parks and gardens once more as outdoor sports facilities reopen and the stay-at-home order ends today.
But last night the public were urged to hold their nerve and not to “squander the gains” made in the pandemic.
In the North-East and North Yorkshire, a plea was made to resist the urge to flock to the region’s beauty spots – especially with warmer weather forecast.
Richmondshire District Council, led by deputy leader Councillor Helen Grant, had to take action after a spike in incidents at Richmond Falls and Batts area last summer after the first lockdown was eased.
CCTV has now been installed, and a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) has been drawn up to ban a number of activities, including drinking, being under the influence of banned drugs or psychoactive substances, failing to pick up rubbish and the lighting of barbecues that pose a fire risk.
Richmond Mayor Lorraine Hodgson said: “I’m hoping people will think sensibly. We are still in a pandemic and we don’t want to let our guard down when the numbers are coming down.
“The numbers in Richmondshire have fluctuated quite a lot. At the moment they are not too bad but they could easily get higher.
“Keep safe and be sensible. Treat wherever you go with respect and remember that people live there.”
Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison added: “With the vaccination rollout proving such a success, it’s fantastic that restrictions will start to be lifted today.
“However, we all need to remember the pandemic isn’t over yet.
“Whilst we’re blessed in County Durham to have some incredible beauty spots, it’s crucial that we all continue to play our part to be sensible, follow the restrictions, and social distance, so that we can move onto the next stage of the unlock and get back to normal.”
Boris Johnson said he hopes the easing will “kick-start a Great British summer of sport” as sports stars teamed up with the Government to encourage a return to physical activity.
Football and cricket pitches, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor swimming pools, golf courses and sailing clubs are now free to reopen after months of being shuttered.
Organised team sports can also resume outdoors, meaning grassroots competitions can resume ahead of the Easter break without the need for social distancing.
The Prime Minister said: “I know how much people have missed the camaraderie and competition of organised sport, and how difficult it has been to restrict physical activities – especially for children.
“But we must remain cautious, with cases rising across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout. Despite today’s easements, everyone must continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward for a vaccine when called.”