Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that the government can close beaches if people continue to flout safety rules.

Mr Hancock told TalkRadio yesterday (Thursday) that the government will take action if social distancing measures are ignored, as thousands flocked to the south coast on the hottest day of the year.

He said he was “reluctant” to go down the route of shutting public spaces as “people have had a pretty tough lockdown” but added that if there was a spike in the number of coronavirus cases “then we will take action”.

This follows the declaration of a major incident in Dorset on Thursday.

Thousands of people defied advice to stay away and descended on Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) beaches on the hottest day of the year so far.

Falmouth Packet:

People on Bournemouth beach on Thursday. Picture: PA Wire

Services were left completely overstretched as visitors arrived in large volumes resulting in widespread problems of illegal parking, excessive waste, anti-social behaviour, gridlock on roads and prohibited overnight camping.

Council leader Vikki Slade said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24 - 48 hours.

"The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.

"We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.”

Falmouth Packet:

Crowds at Durdle Door

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There were a number of incidents reported which involved excessive alcohol and fights.

BCP Council issued 558 parking enforcement fines – the highest on record – and responded to many reports of cars parking and causing an obstruction.

Roads in and out of the area were heavily congested into the early hours.

Crews received widespread abuse and intimidation as they attempted to empty overflowing bins on the seafront.

In the stretch between just the piers, eight tonnes of waste was collected on Wednesday on the second collection run of the day.

On Thursday morning, a further 33 tons of waste was removed along the full stretch of coastline.

Falmouth Packet:

Thousands of people on Bournemouth beach on June 24, 2020, making the most of the hot weather. Picture: Greg Luckhurst

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty has urged people to follow social distancing rules in the hot weather or risk causing a spike in coronavirus.

He wrote on Twitter: “Covid-19 has gone down due to the efforts of everyone but is still in general circulation.

“If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again.

“Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.”