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Public told to stay away from beauty spots ahead of weekend

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Sunworshippers at Ballyholme

Sunworshippers at Ballyholme

Sunworshippers at Seapark

Sunworshippers at Seapark

Sunworshippers at Ballyholme

As the PSNI vowed to step up patrols at beauty spots this weekend, the public was warned not to use the sunny weather as an excuse to break social distancing measures.

In Warrenpoint, many locals voiced their disgust on Thursday after a large crowd of young people were spotted standing close together on the pier.

Councillor Mark Gibbons said the gathering had been organised on social media with many travelling from outside the area, but was glad there appeared to be no repeat in the town yesterday.

"I received close to 30 complaints on Thursday but I'm hoping it has hit home that social distancing needs to continue over the weekend," he said.

Elsewhere, many across Northern Ireland had an early start to enjoying their weekend outdoors with Lisburn city centre busy with shoppers.

In the Stormont Estate, small groups gathered on the grounds while families at Ballyholme Beach in Bangor cooled off with a dip in the sea.

Elsewhere, police faced a backlash after they posted a photo on Facebook of a car park in Portrush saying it was "crowded beyond belief with people who have zero ability to socially distance".

Last weekend, officers closed roads on the north coast to day-trippers. Yesterday, the PSNI's Causeway Coast Facebook page stated: "We understand that the sun is out and shining but please do not flock to natural beauty spots or beaches where social distancing isn't an option!"

However, the comments quickly filled up with people who said they were sticking to the rules.

One woman in Portrush yesterday said: "If you think that people are breaking lockdown rules, then go down onto the beaches and issue tickets. I'm on the East Strand. Yes, there are other families here but no one is anywhere near anyone else. We are outdoors. You can now go and meet with groups of friends from outside your own household should you want to."

A PSNI spokesperson said the Facebook post "serves to illustrate the large number of people present in Portrush and the social distancing difficulties this presents. The number of cars is indicative of the number of people travelling to the area."

They added that the public should be well aware of the advice on social distancing and movement. "On that basis, we are encouraging people not to drive to local beauty spots or popular destinations for their daily exercise as others may have the same idea and social distancing may not be achievable."

Last night, Health Minister Robin Swann urged everyone to stay safe and remain vigilant against Covid-19 this weekend.

"Another weekend is upon us and the weather forecast is very good. That brings with it the risk that people will flood outdoors and forget the social distancing rules that have saved countless lives.

"I am therefore urging everyone to keep doing the right thing. Keep your distance and keep washing your hands."

The RNLI said there are currently no lifeguards on beaches in Northern Ireland until later in June.

With the hot weather set to continue over the weekend, the UK has recorded the sunniest spring since records began in 1929, the Met Office said yesterday.

It is also set to be the driest May for 124 years.

Belfast Telegraph