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Call to stop visitors

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 7:45am

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

People ignoring advice

A senior Devon councillor has called for urgent action to be taken to stop visitors coming to the county after reporting that pharmacies are telling him many prescriptions are for people whose address is outside of the area.

Cllr Frank Biederman, leader of the Independent Group on Devon County Council, said that while clear messages regarding not wanting visitors to come to the region at this time have been put out, far too many people are ignoring the advice and not staying at their primary address.

Last week, councillors from some of Devon’s local authorities joined the call by Cornwall Council for people not to visit Devon and Cornwall this Easter.

But Cllr Biederman said that already in his area of the county, around Fremington in North Devon, visitors have arrived and it has led to terrible trouble for residents getting prescriptions, saying that it is partly because many prescriptions are for people whose address is outside of the area and they are staying at second homes or holiday cottages.

In an open letter, Cllr Biederman said: “I believe we need to do more to STOP this now, surely given the rules these people should be sent back, once we are aware that they are here. I see a situation arising, where a local will not get a critical care bed, because a visitor ignoring the rules, has got it first.”

He has asked that at Wednesday’s Devon County Council cabinet meeting, which will be held via videolink, he can ask an urgent question about what Devon County Council are doing to stop visitors and how are they working with Partners to stop them?

Cllr Biederman added: “I know the Government, Devon County Council and North Devon Council have been putting out clear messages, regards visitors not coming to North Devon at this time but very much welcoming them in the future.

“I am disappointed, that far too many are ignoring this advice and they are also clearly ignoring the rules set out by government, to stay at their primary address.

“I am helping to co-ordinate the community effort in my ward, we have terrible trouble getting prescriptions for residents, they can’t get through on the phone, so end up ignoring advice and join the queue, to stand for a couple of hours only to discover that their prescription is not ready.

“Virtually every call I am getting, is regards prescriptions and not being able to get through to the chemist, which is causing great anxiety in the community.

“Having spoken to several staff I know that work in pharmacies, they tell me many prescriptions are for people whose address  is outside of the area and they are staying at second homes, holiday cottages etc. This is putting extra burden and delay on the pharmacy & ultimately causing delay to our most vulnerable residents.

“My local shop has said the same, so many of his regular holiday home visitors have appeared, they feel it is safer to be here in Devon.

“Given that we are two weeks behind London, the above is likely to ultimately have severe consequences on our hospital.

“I believe we need to do more to STOP this now, surely given the rules these people should be sent back, once we are aware that they are here. Emergency legislation could force Pharmacies, Surgeries & Acute Hospitals to report these incidents to the Local Authority, huge fines administered and they are told to return to their own home.

“I also believe we need permanent checks on the main roads into the area, turning people around, if they are not from the area.

“I see a situation arising, where a local will not get a critical care bed, because a visitor ignoring the rules, has got it first.

“Let’s get a joined up approach to this, it’s simple you stay at your Home Address …. No excuses. I do appreciate all everyone is doing, but I believe this one issue, is going to cost lives here in North Devon and we need to get tougher on it from Central Government Down.”

Last week, councillors from some of Devon’s local authorities joined the call by Cornwall Council for people not to visit Devon and Cornwall this Easter.

All authorities in Devon recognise the importance of the tourism sector for Devon but they are urging people to stay at home, stay safe and wait until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted before paying a visit to the county.

Cllr Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “Tourism is an important part of Devon’s economy and tourism businesses and accommodation will be suffering, just as many sectors are during this crisis. If we all take the Government advice on board, stay at home and only making essential journeys, the sooner we will get through this crisis and get Devon open for business, so that people can pay us a visit at a later date.”

Leader of South Hams District Council, Cllr Judy Pearce, added: “We really value our second home owners and the many thousands of visitors who come to see us each year.  But I cannot stress strongly enough that now is not the time to visit our area. Travelling here for the Easter holiday is not ‘essential travel’.

“If you visit you will put further unnecessary pressure on the local NHS and other community support. Please listen to the Government advice, stay at home this Easter and we will see you all again soon when this is over.”

Leader of East Devon District Council, Cllr Ben Ingham, said: “We know that East Devon is a great place to visit and if we were in normal times we would welcome you with open arms. However we are not in normal times and the message is very clear – ‘Stay at home and save lives’. We won’t be thanking you if action on your part results in our residents becoming infected which could lead to deaths. Please come back when this is all over.”

 

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