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Weekend walkers urged to keep their distance in the countryside

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Groups like this one for the New Forest Walking Festival in 2018 have been banned
Groups like this one for the New Forest Walking Festival in 2018 have been banned

RESIDENTS are being urged to keep following social distancing guidelines in the New Forest this weekend as weather forecasters predict spring sun.

Police have been speaking to individuals and highlighting on social media when they judge to have seen “high volumes” of people in places such as on Lymington High Street and Everton recreation ground on Tuesday, and last week on the coastline between Milford and Barton.

Hampshire County Council issued an appeal last week for residents to avoid areas where they cannot put two metres between each other, as advised in government guidelines to limit the spread of coronavirus.

HCC’s cabinet member for recreation and heritage, Cllr Seán Woodward, said: “We have been clearly asked not to gather in public places so we should not be seeing any large groups of people anywhere at this time.

“I would urge people to remember we are experiencing exceptional circumstances, and we should not be using this time to go on day trips to the countryside. These are not normal times.

“If we all treat our outdoor spaces and others with respect, then we can hope to avoid further restrictions of movement which other countries are currently experiencing.”

Government guidance is for people to limit exercise outside to once a day, either alone or just with members of their household, and try to avoid driving to locations unnecessarily.

Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned, which the police have new powers to enforce with fines or arrests.

HCC has also urged people to be careful when walking or cycling on rights of way, which can be narrow, by making others aware of their presence, standing aside and waiting for others to pass at a wider spot.

Cllr Woodward continued: “The government has called on us to play our part in reducing the risk of the spread of coronavirus by staying at home except for very limited purposes.

“Therefore, I would urge people to use public outdoor spaces and local rights of way sensibly, and to show respect to those around them, and the people that manage the area of land and livestock.”

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