Coronavirus: Britons told stop travelling to national parks to ‘save lives’

Members of the public are being urged not to travel to national parks, woods and forests in a bid to battle the spread of the coronavirus .

Government agency Forestry England called on the public to heed public health advice to stay home and save lives.

The agency – which manages 1,500 public forest and woods that receive almost 27 million visitors a year – said it was vital to observe social-distancing guidance during the pandemic.

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“The government has told everyone to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” the agency said in a statement.

“This is a very sad day for us, as we ask you not to visit the nation’s forests or do anything that would put the emergency services under extra pressure.”

The National Trust has closed all its car parks, many of which allow access to the coast and countryside, to send a clear message to those thinking about travelling to green spots. Director-General Hilary McGrady said: “Following the scenes we saw at the weekend, where visitors travelled to coast and countryside, it is really important that we do all we can to discourage travel, and ask people instead to stay local and observe social distancing as guided by the government.

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“It is so important that people stay at home. We must all work together and not see a repeat of those weekend scenes.”

The move comes in addition to the closure of all the Trust’s gated parks and gardens, houses, shops and cafes, to help restrict the spread of Covid-19 .

Both bodies stressed that those living near parks and forests could still use them to exercise once a day in accordance with guidance issued by the government earlier this week.

It came after Britons flocked to the countryside in droves over the weekend despite being encouraged to stay home.

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Dr Tony Hockley, chair of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, said that people who travelled outside of their hometown to parks were risking lives. “[People] shouldn’t get in their car, drive into the New Forest and then go for a walk. “It is putting everyone in the area at risk. The commoning community of the New Forest broadly reflects the elderly age profile of the local population, and the risk to local people is considerable.”