'Tourist paradise' may see extra Covid safety measures amid visitor rise

The busy beach at Southwold in the hot weather on Thursday, June 25 Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Visitor numbers in Suffolk are expected to return to pre-Covid levels - Credit: Denise Bradley

Holidaymakers and day-trippers to Suffolk's "tourist paradise" could see extra coronavirus safety measures to help manage the spread of infection - amid reports visitor levels will return to pre-Covid levels.

The expected rise in visitor numbers has prompted public health bosses to put together an action plan which could mean additional public toilets and mobile teams handing out testing kits.

Data presented by Public Health Suffolk to June's Suffolk Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting of council, health and police chiefs revealed that tourism spend from January to April was at just 10% of 2019 levels.

However, that is anticipated to be up to 90% this month and 100% by August.

Key risks being considered include infection transmission in shared spaces, such as swimming pools and hotel restaurants, as well as decreased social distancing on crowded beaches and fewer places to wash hands frequently if public toilets are closed.

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As a result, the plan outlines extra measures being planned this summer in key tourism spots.

They include:

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  • One-way pedestrian movements in key areas
  • Mobile public toilets in busy tourist locations
  • Spot checks to ensure Covid regulations are being followed
  • Four high street helpers funded by East Suffolk Council in busy areas
  • Deploying mobile teams in those areas to hand out Covid testing kits
  • Establishing Covid information centres
  • Developing specific guidance for caravan and camp sites
  • QR code and logbook provision for guests at hotels
  • Additional signs

Visitors are also being encouraged to continue observing current guidance, such as regular handwashing, use of facemasks and social distancing to ensure trips are as safe as possible.

Overall, it is expected there will be around 21million trips by visitors in Suffolk this year, which is valued at £1.3billion.

That is down on the 36.5m visitor trips seen in 2019, which brought £2.1bn to the local economy.

Dr Padmanabhan Badrinath, lead consultant for health protection and the enhanced Covid specialist team at Public Health Suffolk, said: “The government has just released the tourist recovery plan this month because it is a very fine balance between lives and livelihoods.

“Lives are important but livelihoods are equally as important.

"Tourism is a big industry, so we need to promote and support the livelihoods at the same time as protecting life.

“We have got an amazing tourist paradise in Suffolk. Lots of people have been working hard as tourism opens up in Suffolk to keep Suffolk Covid-secure.

“Tourism is very important in Suffolk – we can expect a large number of staycations as foreign travel is more difficult than usual.

"You can only go to a few places [abroad], and even if you want to go there they may put some restrictions in place.

“Covid still remains a risk. All the time new variants are coming out, so we need to promote tourism in a very safe way.”

A survey carried out by Visit East of England earlier this year found most people who visit the region come from around a two-hour drive away.

They are most likely to stop at traditional seaside towns like Aldeburgh and Southwold.

For latest information and advice, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/latest-information/

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