Families in North Yorkshire are being urged to stay local during half-term and not be tempted to head to the Yorkshire Dales with police warning they will take action against rule-breakers.
The appeal comes after figures reveal that more than 1,000 people have now died after testing positive for Covid-19 in North Yorkshire.
Officials say infection rates are reducing only slowly across the county, with more than 100 new cases still being reported each day.
North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF), which brings together councils, emergency services and health organisations to tackle the pandemic, is urging people to explore their local areas during the break and not to travel to visit the county’s national parks during half-term, not to travel to the dales, moors or coast for walks or other activities and not to mix indoors with people outside their household.
North Yorkshire Police has reiterated its commitment to encouraging people to follow the rules, but emphasised that officers will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who flout them.
Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, said: “There is no room for complacency. Infection rates are coming down, but only very slowly, so no-one should be lulled into a false sense of security. Rates could quickly shoot up again if we do not remain vigilant.
“I know how difficult this time is, the pressure that families are under and the desire to see loved ones, but please do not do so. The virus spreads when people mix with each other, so please don’t break the rules.
“One in three people carry Covid-19 with no symptoms, so even if you feel fine you might be carrying the infection and be able to spread it. Don’t take that risk by travelling miles from your home to the coast or countryside. Last weekend in the Lake District, a mountain rescuer suffered life-changing injuries while trying to help a camper who had breached Covid rules.
“Stick with the fabulous efforts we have seen from so many people throughout the pandemic, keep doing the right thing and we can keep the numbers heading in the right direction – downwards.”
Richard Flinton, chair of NYLRF, said: “We know this is really hard. This lockdown feels like a slog and we may well be feeling weary from the restrictions under which we must live.
“With the arrival of half-term, many families will struggle with how to entertain children not at school or involved in remote learning. It may be tempting to mix with friends or head to the coast or dales. Please don’t – the risk is not worth taking. Think of the 1,006 people who have died from Covid-19 in our county and please keep going, keep sticking to the rules, keep protecting your family and your community.
“There is real hope via the vaccination programme. There is light for us to head towards.”
Superintendent Mike Walker, North Yorkshire Police lead for the force’s Covid response, said: “Our hearts and our thoughts go out to everyone who has lost someone to this virus.
“Many of us will now know someone who has been effected by coronavirus. We’ll know of the loss of a mother or father, a husband, wife or partner, a sister, a brother or a child. Or we’ll have heard of the fear that many have felt when they have seen a loved one taken into hospital – saying goodbye to them, wondering if they will come home again.
“That feeling is something myself and my colleagues are working around the clock to try to prevent as many people as possible from experiencing. We remain committed to following our approach of encouraging people to follow the rules and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who openly flout them.
“Half term holidays are fast approaching and after juggling the stresses and strains of working from home and home-schooling, there may be the temptation to get out of the house and take a family day trip to the coast, or visit a Dales beauty spot. But now is not the time.
“As a father myself, I completely understand what families are going through and the pressures parents, carers and our children are under. But we must remain vigilant to the threat this virus still poses. Take your daily exercise, but stay local to your town or village and don’t drive multiple miles to access open spaces, when you can take exercise from your doorstep.
“Officers will be patrolling and we will be visiting popular tourist spots. We will be proactive in engaging with members of the public, asking the reason for their journey and we will take enforcement action if anyone is outside their home without a reasonable excuse. So please save yourselves a wasted trip and £200 and stay home and stay local.”