Edinburgh’s police chief urges public to stick to Covid rules on gatherings as Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ order lifts in time for Easter weekend

Edinburgh’s police chief is urging the public to stick to the government’s Covid regulations on gatherings in parks, beaches and beauty spots as Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ order changes to ‘stay local’ in time for Easter weekend.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 7:00 am

People are being told to stay within their local authority boundaries when the restrictions start to ease from Friday, though people will no longer legally have to only leave home for essential reasons such as work, exercise and buying food.

But in Tuesday’s Covid briefing, national clinical director professor Jason Leitch said anyone going outside from Friday should avoid crowded places - even outdoors - as this is still a concern and is the reason why outdoor meeting restrictions will still be limited to a maximum of four people from two different households.

In Edinburgh concerns have been raised in recent days about incidents in the Meadows where police have been called to disperse large numbers of youths gathering and reportedly failing to adhere to social distancing rules.

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Edinburgh’s police chief is urging the public to stick to the government’s Covid regulations on gatherings at beauty spots as Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ order changes to ‘stay local’ in time for Easter weekend. Pictures: Police Scotland/JPI Media/ Anna Koslerova.

Chief Superintendent Sean Scott, Divisional Commander for Edinburgh, said: “The coronavirus regulations have had a significant impact on our lives and I would like to thank the vast majority of people who are sticking to the rules and doing the right thing to avoid the spread of the virus as we move through the easing of restrictions.

“People should not travel outwith their local authority area except for essential purposes. While Easter weekend is traditionally a time for visiting friends and family, I would urge people to stay local and follow the regulations on gatherings.

“If you are visiting beauty spots within your local area, do so safely and respectfully – leaving no trace of your visit. Please also park responsibly to allow emergency access.

"Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and encourage compliance, but we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers as a last resort."

The ‘stay local’ rule will apply from April 2 and hairdressers, garden centres, click and collect services and homeware stores will also be allowed to reopen from April 5.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said previously that shops, gyms and some indoor hospitality should reopen from April 26. The travel ban between Scotland’s council areas is also set to be lifted from this date.

East Lothian Council has also warned tourists to stay out of the region this bank holiday weekend as the local authority works with police to crack down on rogue travellers. The county saw record numbers of visitors when lockdown was eased last summer as people headed to the coast and seaside towns.

The council has now set up a working group with its officers and police to monitor coastal car parks, crack down on unsafe parking and check where people have travelled from.

In the Meadows last summer, major concerns were raised about overflowing bins and a lack of public toilets, with several reports of people seen urinating in public.

Best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin, who lives beside the park, was among those highlighting issues at the time. On Tuesday, he also retweeted images of the large numbers of people gathering and the police in attendance, adding: “Police parked up ‘as a deterrent.’ No one deterred. And so it goes, from now until autumn.”

Portobello Beach was also popular last summer with people regularly flocking there during the good weather.

New numbered location signs are being put up this week along the two-mile beach to help rescue teams move quickly to find anyone in danger at sea. In a crisis situation, the signs can provide visitors with a fixed reference point on the beach to inform 999 call handlers and rescue teams to calculate surface drift rates, meaning a rescue helicopter or lifeboat can move quickly to a predicated location.

The RNLI also said last week that they were called out to rescue 19 people in five days who had been stranded on Cramond Island who had been cut off by the tide. They urged anyone planning to travel there to check the tide times in advance and to follow government advice to not put themselves or emergency services at risk.

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