Fears are growing that some regions in the UK could be on the cusp of a second wave of Covid-19 infections after research suggested that the rate of infection was back to around one in the North West and the South West.
It comes after thousands of sunseekers travelled to beauty spots across the south coast after the government announced days in advance that lockdown would be eased from 1 June.
Following the move, crowds of revellers descended on Durdle Door in Dorset and other beaches last week to lap up the sun while enjoying drinks and picnics, in what amounted to a party-like atmosphere.
Since then, council leaders and MPs have called on the government to take greater action to allow coastal communities to protect themselves against the virus.
Last week, Brighton and Hove City Council called for the government to grant it more powers to implement its own lockdown measures in a bid to keep visitors of its beach.
Meanwhile, Dorset Council leader Spencer Flower wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to limit travel to within the home counties, warning that lockdown rules have a disproportionately negative impact on coastal communities.
“I am worried that we will see a second wave of infection here in Dorset as a result of the high number of visitors to the area over recent days,” Mr Flower wrote.
“I’m asking the government to act now to save the lives of Dorset residents. My plea to the government is to review the unrestricted travel guidelines currently in place and require people instead to stay local.”
With summer fast approaching and the R rate appearing to be on the rise in two regions, could the UK shut its beaches in the event of a second wave?
The ownership of Britain’s beaches is complicated, with many sites not in public ownership. It is estimated that the Crown Estate controls around 45 per cent of England’s foreshore.
The remaining 55 per cent lays in the hands of the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence and other organisations as well as private individuals. This means that it is not always in the power of local authorities to shut beaches.
One council in the South West of England told The Independent that it could only shut its beaches in a state of emergency.
A spokesperson for No.10 said it was up to councils to decide whether or not to close beaches.