The South West is putting key workers at the heart of the bank holiday social media campaign as a reminder that every day they risk themselves to keep the public safe. Whether they are health or social care professionals, or those who keep us moving, keep us fed and ensure our essential services are maintained during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A female healthcare worker wearing PPE and holding a sign which reads "Thank you for staying away - come back later" with the Devon Flag and LRF logo.

The campaign, which is aimed at would-be holiday makers, second home-owners and local communities alike, praises the public and says "thank you" for their high levels of co-operation during the last bank holiday period. The public's response has so far helped keep infection rates in the region relatively low and avoided swamping the NHS response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, health and social care professionals, waste collection teams and workers from the food supply chain will take to social media in a bid to urge the public to not let its guard down and put the long-term recovery of the South West at risk for the sake of an off-limits bank holiday jaunt.

One Devon survey of traffic entering the county on the M5 over the last bank holiday at Easter showed an 85 per cent drop in traffic. Council Leaders are calling on the public to do the right thing again ahead of the Bank Holiday this Friday.

West Devon Borough Council and South Hams District Leaders spoke out in support of the LRF Bank Holiday Campaign.

Cllr Neil Jory Leader of West Devon Borough Council, said: "Thank you to everyone who has so far been sticking to the lock down rules. Because of your sacrifices, we have not seen the huge number of cases here that other areas have seen. 

"Thank you also to the second homes owners and tourists who have stayed away. You are helping to protect our vulnerable communities and enable our key workers to respond to the pandemic. 

"But now is not the time to rest on our laurels.  This bank holiday please keep up the good work, stay in your primary residence, your home county and if you are a South West local, take your daily exercise close to your home. Please do not be tempted to break the rules."

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council added: "Our Beach car parks are closed, as are the bars and restaurants that visitors and day-trippers would use.

"The keyworkers in our local shops and supermarkets are working round the clock to provide provisions and essentials for local people.  If you come here to visit you will be putting extra pressure on them at a time when they are already stretched, and you may be putting local people at risk.  Please save your visit for when this is all over when we shall look forward to seeing you."

Cornwall Council Leader Julian German said: "The overwhelming majority of people have listened to our request not to visit Cornwall at the moment - and we want to thank each and every one of you.

"We must remind ourselves of why we are all doing this - to protect our NHS and save lives. Thank you all for helping us to keep our residents in Cornwall safe. We look forward to welcoming people back to our beautiful Cornwall as soon as it is safe to do so."

Devon County Council leader John Hart, who also chairs the organisation representing local authorities throughout the region, South West Councils, argues that this bank holiday, the stay away message is particularly poignant.  He said: "This Friday as we celebrate the anniversary of VE day, perhaps we should all reflect on the sacrifices that so many people made in the past to ensure we enjoy the freedoms and liberties that we are temporarily deprived of at the moment.

"Now our foe is a virus with NHS and care staff on the front line and every single person in the country, in their villages, towns and cities, able to play their part.

"We are all growing tired of lockdown but here in the South West we want to thank people for continuing to observe Government travel restrictions and not coming here right now. A warm welcome awaits later."

Devon and Cornwall Police Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew said:  "It's now been a number of weeks since the Government put measures in place in the fight against Coronavirus and some people may be thinking that now is the time to relax these measures. 

"Now is not the time for complacency and we must all continue to adhere to the advice which includes social distancing and only making essential journeys outside of our homes.

"To those thinking about travelling to the South West for holiday or social purposes, please come back later. We all have a part to play in this endeavour and we must continue to be socially responsible.

"The majority of people are continuing to play their part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and to them I say thank you, your role in this should not be underestimated."

Backing the campaign, Alistair Handyside from the South West Tourism Alliance said: "All our tourist operators will be glad when they can open and you can return. We have said that we want to open not a day too early, and not a day too late. So rest assured we'll be ready for you, but until then, please do stay where you are until we are told that we can welcome you all back."

Issued: 06/05/2020