Stay safe this Easter and protect our summer

Residents and visitors to Northumberland are being urged to protect the summer by acting responsibly in the county this Easter. 
While lockdown restrictions have been eased slightly, under the government’s roadmap, until Monday April 12 at the earliest, many facilities, shops and hospitality venues will not be fully open with food and drink only available from essential shops or takeaways. 
The first Bank Holiday weekend of the year is expected to be busy in the county but the current guidance is still that travel should be minimised where possible and that unnecessary trips should be avoided. 
So, while the county would normally welcome visitors, the council and partners are asking people to think of others and continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of Covid by staying local. 
Throughout the weekend the council will be working alongside Northumbria PoliceNorthumberland National Park Authority and Forestry England to get this message across. 
Rick O’Farrell, Interim Executive Director of Local Services at the County Council, said: “Northumberland is famed for its beautiful coastlineits unspoilt countryside and our welcoming towns and villages, and we all want to keep it that way. 
“We expect it will be very busy over Easter now lockdown restrictions have eased slightly, but we want to remind everybody that they should still be keeping travel to a minimum, and we would ask everyone to be responsible and take a few simple steps when out and about. 
“Parking responsibly, respecting the countryside and taking litter home aren’t difficult things to do, but they can make a big difference. 
"We’ll be doing our best to keep bins emptied but if they’re full, bring your own bag and dispose of it when you return home. Please don't leave it next to an already full bin as this contributes to littering. 
“And please do not use portable barbecues or light campfires due to the fire risk – we had a number of problems caused by these last summer. 
“It's really important we protect our beautiful county, not only for ourselves but for future generations. 
Throughout the weekend council staff will be working to keep areas clean and tidy, while managing carparks and taking enforcement action where necessary. 
Rick O’Farrell added: We would also ask that if people do travel somewhere to exercise, to be respectful and sensible and not block roads where people live or cause a danger to other road users. If you arrive and it’s really busy try somewhere else – there's enough of Northumberland for everyone.” 
And the county’s Director of Public Health is reminding people that actions taken now can help protect our freedoms later this year. 
Liz Morgan explained: “We’re going to have to live safely with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, and a key part of that is for us to keep the infection rates as low as possible. 
It’s important people don’t assume we’re out of the woods yet and our actions every day will impact on what happens a few weeks and a few months down the line. 
"We’d ask you continue to keep travel to a minimum, maintain your social distance, wear your face coverings when you’re indoors in a public place, and remember to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. 
Northumbria Police’s Northern Communities Chief Inspector Ron Charlton said: “We have been busy preparing for the easing of restrictions and have been working closely with our partners. 
“The slight easing of the rules, though exciting, is not a full return to our usual way of life and it is important we all continue to be responsible and not let our guard down. 
“We would like to thank the majority of people who are playing their part in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and ask that everyone continues to follow the rules and guidance in place to help keep one another safe.” 
He added: “Anticipating that beauty spots around the area will be popular places for people to meet, we have brought forward a number of initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour. 
“This includes extra patrols in parks, the countryside and along the coastline. 
“We want to be clear anti-social behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. 
“By putting such measures in place, we hope that everyone can enjoy the latest changes to the restrictions.” 
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “Since the easing of the first lockdown, people have been visiting the National Park in unprecedented numbers to connect with nature and our iconic landscapes to improve their overall health and wellbeing.  
“The value of nature and being outdoors has rarely been more important and we know how much people are looking forward to when they are able to visit again. 
“The National Park is a living, working place and spring is an incredibly important time of year for both lambing and ground-nesting birds. We are asking everyone to follow local signs and the countryside code by sticking to paths, keeping dogs on leads and taking their litter home.  
“Please respect the environment, local communities and our staff and welcome volunteers, who are there to help everyone enjoy their visit. We must all do our bit by being responsible and considerate when we visit so that the National park can be here for everyone to enjoy now and forever.” 
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