Blackpool has been busier than ever over the weekend as crowds have flocked to the resort. Pictures selected by the press show that there was little social distancing because of the large numbers of people in town. Restrictions, which come into force on Tuesday, mean Blackpool will be the only area in a large part of north-west England not covered by stricter measures, despite having a higher infection rate than neighbouring areas.
The Guardian has reported that visitors said the town was ‘scarily rammed’ and ‘packed to the rafters’, and that the promenade had been turned into a ‘Covid breeding ground’.
Gem Concannon, 36, from Northwich, Cheshire, told the BBC that she had visited the resort on Saturday with her family. ‘It was heaving, hardly anyone was wearing masks or social distancing. It was shocking. I’ve never seen it that busy before.’
However, another commented to the BBC, ‘Blackpool has been busy for weeks. It’s sunny today, people need fresh air and family time, and businesses need the income. It’s not breaking any legislation. We can’t stop living, mental health is on the increase, families are in more debt than ever, children’s education is suffering, and businesses are folding. The virus is not going to suddenly stop, flu doesn’t, heart disease, liver disease, cancer don’t so why would this virus? We just need good hygiene, stay home if you have symptoms, social distance and the media to publish helpful information about the virus. The media is creating tension and animosity.’
Another commented, ‘People crying over people being on the prom while they were also on the prom…. Hypocrisy at its finest.’
The resort was not included in the Lancashire-wide restrictions because it has its own local authority boundaries and was not considered to be at a higher risk than other parts of the county. However, the decision has prompted widespread confusion and concern as the town’s infection rate has doubled in the past fortnight.
Lynn Williams, the leader of Blackpool council, said the town was busy at the weekend but added that other seaside resorts were similarly busy, including nearby St Anne’s. The Guardian has reported that Ms Williams claimed that there had been reports of about 500 people queuing in ‘that resort’ for fish and chips. She added, ‘We’ve put measures in place to make sure we’re absolutely as safe as we possibly can be. We’re still very much in crisis response mode and we will monitor it.’
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire county council has warned, ‘Don’t flock to Blackpool just because you can.’
‘My message to the residents of Lancashire is we need to look after each other, our family and our friends. The rates are rising in all parts of Lancashire. Just because Blackpool is not yet an area of intervention, or where these new rules apply, this guidance that has come out applies to all of Lancashire no matter who you are or where you live so you take it with you wherever you go.’
The latest NHS Digital data, published today, shows Blackpool’s infection rate has risen to 57.5 cases per 100,000, which is double the rate a fortnight earlier and nearly twice England’s average. It recorded 80 new cases in the week to 17 September.