Coronavirus: Cornish report 650 incomers amid fears of Easter influx

Cornish residents have reported 650 holiday lets and second homeowners to the council in the past five days as people sneak into the county for the Easter weekend.

Will Humphries, Southwest Correspondent

The council and Devon and Cornwall police are increasing their efforts to deter weekenders as police officers stop cars, caravans and motorhomes on the M5, A30 and at service stations and car parks at beauty spots. Visitors have been stopped on coastal paths in St Mawes, Rock and Padstow.

Rob Nolan, Cornwall council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, said that most holiday accommodation owners had stopped trading but not all. Tourists using them have been told to return home.

“The police are relying on unnecessary travel to stop the second homeowners. They are going to ramp it up at the weekend,” Mr Nolan said. “Locals are very anxious about people moving in next door to them.”

The council asked for reports of rule breakers last Friday and by yesterday had received 650 reports, with most about Airbnb rentals.

“Airbnb won’t close their listings,” Mr Nolan said. “They are a very difficult company to get hold of.”

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, said that it was “very disappointing that some were found to be flouting the orders of the government. I would ask the public to keep vigilant and report any further properties that they suspect may be defying the law.”

Gordon Ramsay and his family have also been the subject of local anger after they arrived at their house in Trebetherick on March 20, before the lockdown was imposed.

The Ramsay family are regular visitors and their eldest son lives there permanently, according to a family friend.

People in Devon and on Exmoor have also reported an influx since the lockdown was issued.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the MP for Bridgwater & West Somerset, said he had been told of second homeowners asking their cleaners on Exmoor to prepare houses for their arrival.

“Our cottage hospitals won’t be able to cope if there is an outbreak here and the nearest large hospital is in Taunton. We don’t have the resources for these people coming here,” he said.

One Exmoor villager said that two doctors from London had moved into their second home to self-isolate near Dulverton but then drove back to the capital because they forgot their breadmaker, before returning again.

A Times reader who moved from London to her Gloucestershire second home a month ago, before the imposition of social distancing, said she was questioned by two police officers on her doorstep on Monday after local residents reported that she had “recently arrived”.

She was asked to provide evidence of living there before the lockdown and it was only thanks to her daughter having a receipt from a taxi taken from London that the officers were satisfied and left.

“We came down with supplies because no one was taking the situation seriously and we didn’t leave the house for more than two weeks,” she said.

Airbnb said it was working on measures to “help everyone follow government guidance and keep people safe” and added it had blocked spare rooms and shared spaces being advertised in the UK for the emergency period and had taken away the “instant book” feature so that guests have to request a booking from a host.