Officials today warned celebrities and second homeowners they ‘can’t hide’ in Cornwall and Suffolk as police crack-down on rule-breakers in a sweeping anti-Covid clampdown.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez told celebrities and high-profile social media stars not to make ‘unnecessary trips’ to Devon and Cornwall during the third national lockdown.
Celebrities who have spent time in Cornwall during previous lockdowns include chef Gordon Ramsay, who was even reported to police for travelling between London and his £4million second home.
A spokesperson told MailOnline that Mr Ramsay been in London since December, but declined to comment on any forthcoming travel plans for security and privacy reasons.
Cornwall, a formerly Tier 1 county, registered 320 cases per 100,000 people according to the latest official figures – sparking claims that the NHS in the country is at risk of collapsing.
In seaside resort Southwold, Suffolk, authorities threatened ‘self-entitled’ second homeowners trying to escape the shutdown by fleeing to the coastal beauty spot with draconian fines.
Liberal Democrat Cllr David Beavan claimed ‘we know the people who are breaking the rules’ and police are ‘knocking on their doors’, adding: ‘You can’t hide in a town like Southwold’.
Southwold, where more than half the properties are owned by outsiders, has attracted a host of stars and is a favourite of celebrities including Twiggy, Dame Judi Dench, David Tennant and Michael Palin.
It comes as police forces across England vow to take a hard-line on lockdown rule-breakers, with officers fining people the first time they are caught not wearing masks or being outside without a ‘reasonable excuse’.
Yesterday officers arrested 28 protesters for flouting restrictions, fined four friends £800 for travelling in the same car to McDonald’s and pulled over motorists to check where they were going.
Celebrities who have spent time in Cornwall during previous lockdowns include chef Gordon Ramsay, who was reported to police for travelling between London and his second home
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez told celebrities not to make ‘unnecessary trips’ to Devon and Cornwall during the third national lockdown
During the first lockdown, Ramsay caused anger with Cornish locals after setting out on a number of extensive cycles – even celebrated one ‘26.2 mile’ outings. Pictured, his home
Welsh police kicked the head of Equality and Human Rights Commission out of her holiday house on Christmas Day after locals reported her for breaking Covid rules
Rebecca Hilsenrath broke lockdown rules by driving from Hertfordshire to Llanegryn, Gwynedd for the festive break
The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has apologised after she was kicked out of her second home in Wales by police on Christmas Day.
Rebecca Hilsenrath broke lockdown rules by driving from Hertfordshire to Llanegryn, Gwynedd for the festive break.
Officers spoke to the lawyer twice after an outcry by locals who found out she was in the village.
After the second visit the CEO and her husband agreed to leave within the day and make it back to their main home for Christmas.
Mrs Hilsenrath apologised yesterday and claimed she did not know she had broken the rules in Wales.
In a statement, Ms Hernandez said: ‘This new strain of Covid-19 is spreading much faster and we must do everything we can to protect our residents and the NHS.
‘I would particularly like to appeal to celebrities and high profile social media stars.
‘By not conducting unnecessary trips to the region you will be setting a fantastic example to the wider public and, in doing so, encouraging more people to stick to the rules.
‘I would urge you to lead by example and together we will come through this.
‘There will, of course, come a time when Devon and Cornwall can welcome back visitors with open arms, and while that time isn’t now, I would urge you all to #ComeBackLater.’
She added: ‘We know Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are absolutely beautiful and it’s totally understandable that people would want to spend time here – our thriving tourism industry is evidence of that.
‘However, at a time when stopping the spread of this terrible virus is more important than ever, I must urge people not to make unnecessary journeys to the region.’
Rachel Wigglesworth, Cornwall’s Director of Public Health, also issued a stark warning to the county’s residents.
She said: ‘This is a serious case for Cornwall, we’ve seen more than two thirds of the total case numbers for Cornwall just in the past two months.
‘We’ve increased from a rate of 18 to over 300 per 100,000 – that is a rapid increase. It’s a more rapid increase certainly than anywhere else in the South West but also nationally, so this is a serious situation for Cornwall.’
She also said the virus ‘is very nearly out of control in Cornwall’ and the message to stay at home ‘is really simple’.
Despite registering no cases of coronavirus, the Isles of Scilly has also now moved from Tier 1 into the national shutdown.
Cllr Julian German, leader of Cornwall Council, called for tougher restrictions before the third lockdown was announced on Monday.
‘This action should have been taken as soon as the surge in case numbers became evident,’ he said.
‘My hope now is that these steps will prove enough to make a real difference and reduce the spread of the virus.’
A Suffolk Police spokesman said: ‘We will continue to engage with people proportionately, fairly and using common sense.
‘It is right for officers to be inquisitive about why individuals may be away from home.
Cornish locals appear to be out for blood – with one shopper seen berating Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay with his wife Tana and children Megan, Tilly, twins Jack and Holly, and Oscar
Townsfolk strung banners across Southwold High Street at the start of the epidemic last year warning visitors ‘Please respect us – don’t infect us’ and asking them to stay away
Police state UK: Crime commissioner calls for law change to allow officers to force entry into homes of suspected rule-breakers
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said he has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily’
A police force wants powers to force entry into the homes of suspected Covid rule breakers.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has urged the government to give officers power of entry, to help ‘enforce the new regulations more easily.’
Mr Jamieson said: ‘For the small minority of people who refuse entry to police officers and obstruct their work, the power of entry would seem to be a useful tool.
‘I have raised this issue with the policing minister previously and clarity on the power of entry would help police officers enforce the new Covid regulations more easily.’
Before Christmas, Mr Jamieson said officers would break up family celebrations if they flouted lockdown rules over the festive period. The police chief also warned about Hanukkah and Diwali celebrations.
But his cash-strapped force came under fire earlier this week after advertising for a new £74,000-a-year ‘fairness and belonging’ director to ‘oversee improved inclusive culture throughout the workplace’.
‘And they will use their discretion in determining whether enforcement action is appropriate. Those who blatantly ignore the regulations should expect to receive a fixed penalty notice.’
Townsfolk strung banners across Southwold High Street at the start of the epidemic last year warning visitors ‘Please respect us – don’t infect us’ and asking them to stay away.
More than half of the housing property in Southwold is used as second homes and residents have previously reported an influx of visitors whenever new Covid-19 measures come into force.
A furious row broke out last summer as hundreds of wealthy second-homers descended in a bid to avoid the lockdown.
Second homeowner David Shea claimed that without him and others who bought holiday properties, Southwold would become a derelict ghost town – and would lose its pier, restaurants, pubs and industry.
He insisted: ‘Without us there would be no beach huts lining the promenade and the lighthouse could have been inactive and derelict.
‘It is unlikely that the brewery would still be located in the town – none of the hallmarks of a Victorian seaside town that we love would exist.
‘The response to the outbreak has felt far more like an opportunity for many locals to air existing deep-resentment towards those fortunate enough to enjoy a second home in their seaside area.
‘Many second homers consider themselves as locals by owning a home here – they pay taxes which contribute to local services, bring jobs and industry to the area, improve house prices and so may have just as much right to be in an area as those who happened to have been born there.’
But Mr Shea’s defence infuriated many locals who claimed they have been priced out of buying homes in the town where they were born.
Cllr Beavan said: ‘His argument are wrong on so many levels. Our population doubles in the summer and our local health centre would not be able to cope with any outbreak – and the nearest hospital is an hour away.
‘Some 60 per cent of the property here is now owned by people who do not live here permanently. In winter many of the streets are dark and the houses empty – it’s like ghost town.
‘We are fed up with second-home owners who leave their houses empty and then use a loophole to avoid paying rates and tax – we estimate that this applies to more than 200 properties.
‘And meanwhile the smallest end-of-terraced two-bed cottage in Southwold now sells for almost half a million pounds. Local people can no longer afford to live in the place they were born.’
It comes as Priti Patel backed police to confront people on park benches, stop cars to check if passengers are all from the same household and knock on doors to hunt for parties.
The Home Secretary said police should stop people who are outside to ask them why they are not at home and ‘explain to them they should not necessarily be out unless it was for key reasons’.
Five officers, several armed with batons, broke up the protest outside the Houses of Parliament, pinning this man to the ground
Police officers arrest a 92-year-old man outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London, yesterday after the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail. The Met is yet to confirm the reason for the arrests as it pledged to get tough on covidiots, including those gathering in large groups
In the past two weeks more than 800 fines were issued for ‘egregious’ breaches of the coronavirus rules, she added.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The police have done that [approached people on benches], let’s be very clear about this. Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, during the last lockdown, the police have been asking individuals why are they out and about, and should they be out and about, when the message right now is stay at home’.
Ms Patel refused to speculate on whether there would be any easing of restrictions before March 31 as Boris Johnson quietly extended his third national lockdown and ducked Tory demands to guarantee ‘malicious’ rules are eased after his first review on February 15.
‘I would love to say, of course we would love to see that and say that but that’s not for us to speculate,’ Ms Patel told LBC. ‘We all just need to absolutely whack this virus down, we’ve got to reduce the R factor… it’s a wretched, wretched disease, it really is. Right now the focus of the Government and the NHS is to get the jab into people’s arms.’
The Met say anyone caught not wearing masks in public buildings or being outside without a suitable reason will be given a fixed penalty notice without warning.
Anyone who cannot give a lawful excuse will be fined up to £6,400 and those caught without face coverings in necessary areas will also be slapped with an on the spot penalty notice of £200 minimum.
Lockdown rules allow two people from separate households to meet in public and go for a walk. Any larger gatherings are banned and illegal with everyone needing a ‘good reason’ to be out of the home.
One West Midlands Police officer was even stopped by his own colleagues and asked where he was going.
Some critics asked if Birmingham had become 1970s East Germany, and Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt said enforcing Covid restrictions has ‘stretched’ policing resources to the limit.
What is a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home?
You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:
- Work – you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home
- Volunteering – you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services
- Essential activities – you can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
- Education and childcare – you can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend.
- Meeting others and care – you can leave home to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people
- Exercise – you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble, limited to once per day, and not outside your local area
- Medical reasons – you can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
- Harm and compassionate visits – you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).
- You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment
- Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment
- Communal worship and life events – You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.
There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may leave home to fulfil legal obligations or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.