Lockdown ‘flockdown’ - crowds descend on Sidmouth beach despite social distancing rules

Groups of people gathering on Sidmouth beach over the May bank holiday weekend. Picture: Contributed

Groups of people gathering on Sidmouth beach over the May bank holiday weekend. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Horrified Sidmouth residents have described large groups gathering on the beach and seafront, ignoring the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Their behaviour has been described as ‘an insult to the town’, where most residents are doing their best to follow the Government guidelines.

Speaking anonymously to the Herald, a member of the public said: “The last few days have seen many flock to the beach and in the mornings it has been wonderful to watch so many enjoy the wonderful weather, but all acting sensibly and observing the two-metre distancing rule.

“However, after lunch, scores of ‘students’ descend on the beach and form into one large group and also smaller ones. Most stay until the evening. They have absolute total disregard for social distancing and the groups are very tightly knit. The whole beach changes in atmosphere.”

The local resident said some moved up to the cricket ground to avoid public glare, and added: “This has been the scene for the last three days and we are amazed and appalled that no action has been taken against them.

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“Their behaviour is an insult to the town, its residents and visitors.”

Another person who contacted the Herald said: “It’s amazing how many young people are meeting on the front in such large numbers and it’s truly frustrating and upsetting when people like myself are making such an effort to prevent a second peak.

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“I am 19 and many older people walking past me were bad-mouthing our generation due to this group of people, in which there were well over 30.

“I want people to know there are a lot of teenagers who are suffering mentally due to not seeing their friends and are in the majority of teenagers respecting these rules in place.

“I attempted to contact 101 but was on hold for over an hour.”

A police spokesman added: “We’ve got one log from the weekend re a report of groups of youths at Jacob’s Ladder at around 8pm on Saturday (May 23); police attended and spoke to the people and they dispersed.”

A spokesman for East Devon District Council said there have been similar problems across the area, including many reports of rubbish being left on beaches, parks and gardens.

The spokesman said: “Large groups are congregating on beaches across the district, ignoring social distancing restrictions and government guidelines of no more than six people gathering at one time.

“The council is working with the police to educate and advise these groups on how their actions are impacting on others.”

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