The leader of Isle of Wight Council has urged people not to visit the island unless they have a “decent need” to do so, as it prepares to become one of only three locations in England under the loosest coronavirus restrictions.
Councillor Dave Stewart told the PA news agency only those with family on the island or second homes should consider travelling, with everyone else encouraged to wait.
“If you don’t need to come, don’t come,” Mr Stewart said, adding that the council is working up plans to station Covid support officers at the island’s ferry terminals.
“They will be providing leaflets and information to people, encouraging them if they haven’t got a decent need to come over, not to come.”
Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly are the only three regions to have been placed in Tier 1 — which has some of the loosest restrictions and allows households to mix indoors up to a maximum of six people.
Should you consider visiting the #IsleofWight after the 2nd December 2020, we ask that you are responsible in your planning and adhere to all Government guidelines and all rules put in place by our local businesses to help safeguard you and those around you.#TheIslandIsWaiting pic.twitter.com/d5CGCVMLQc
— Isle Of Wight (@VisitIOW) December 1, 2020
Mr Stewart said, while he was supportive of local island businesses who need the trade after a difficult year, people should try and remain local.
“We are very concerned that we don’t want to do anything that will increase the rate because we all lose that way,” he said.
Heads of both Visit Isle of Wight and Visit Cornwall said they still “welcome visitors” from Tier 2, as long as they followed the rules for their local area.
Chief executive of Visit Isle of Wight Will Myles said: “We are not saying stop and don’t come, but we are not actively rushing out there and saying come and visit the island.
“But our businesses are here and they need that support, so come and enjoy them, there’s no problem with that whatsoever.”
Anyone travelling from a Tier 2 area has to follow the same rules as the area they came from, including a ban on household mixing indoors.
Those living under Tier 3 restrictions have been asked not to travel to any other area.
Keith Greenfield, chief executive of Wightlink, one of the two major Isle of Wight ferry operators, said he has seen a small rise in bookings since the announcement.
He said it was not the job of the ferry companies to restrict movement, despite some complaints from locals that crossings be for essential travel only.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said the county had only seen a 10% rise in visitor numbers following last week’s announcement.
He said fears of an influx to the area this time had yet to be realised: “We coped with 180,000-200,000 extra people in August.
“The maximum we would talk about this time of year is 20,000 if that.”
He added: “You can tend to spot visitors.”
Devon and Cornwall Police have launched 10 extra patrol cars to respond to “Covid-related matters”.
Hampshire police also said it would continue to maintain Covid-19 patrols in the region, but would not prevent prevent anyone from travelling.
A spokesperson for Visit Scilly said there were concerns about the impact of visitors: “I think naturally as a community of only around 2,200 people with a fragile island environment and unique infrastructure, transport and dependency on links to the mainland, there would be concerns, but also being out of season I think will alleviate many of those.”