Hikers from different households in England travelled more than 75 miles in a minibus together to climb a Welsh mountain in defiance of coronavirus restrictions.
Police said the walkers were from mixed households and had travelled from Cheltenham to South Wales for a hike, even though ‘Level 4’ restrictions – Wales’s equivalent of England’s Tier 4 measures – are in force in the region.
Under the restrictions, nearly all people are banned from mixing with other households both indoors and outdoors.
The hikers’ minibus was one of more than 300 vehicles parked at the foot of Pen-Y-Fan mountain in the Brecon Beacons, which had received a dusting of snow.
Intensive care medic Dr David Hepburn said he was ‘very disappointed’ to see the mass of cars parked.
An intensive care doctor has hit out at crowds of people visiting the Brecon Beacons despite Wales’ nationwide lockdown. Pictured: Cars parked below Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in southern Britain
Pen-Y-Fan is the highest peak in south Wales and popular with visitors wanting to reach the 2,907ft summit.
Police said they issued fixed penalty notices for ‘blatant’ breaches of lockdown rules and many other visitors had turned away.
And while Dr Hepburn, a consultant in the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, said he could understand why people want to visit beauty spots, he warned it was against the rules.
He added that it was still unclear what impact Christmas had had on case numbers.
‘All the hospitals across the health board are now very, very full,’ he told the BBC.
‘In terms of the intensive care unit actually where we’re managing to sort of hold our footprint, and we haven’t exploded, you know we haven’t burst our banks as yet.
‘But we’ve still got quite a lot of time to go before this pandemic is under control, so really anything could happen over the next month or so.’
Dr Hepburn, a consultant in the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, said he could understand why people want to visit beauty spots but he warned it was against the rules.
He added: ‘We don’t want to lose any more friends, loved ones, neighbours. I don’t want to watch anyone else die from this cruel disease, and I’ve done that more than I can count.’
Dr Hepburn was himself ‘wiped out’ by coronavirus in March, leaving him bedridden and asleep for up to 18 hours a day.
Wales has been in a nationwide Level 4 lockdown since 20 December, with restrictions also tightened for Christmas Day.
The rules state that people must not visit other households, or meet other people they do not live with.
Wales has been in a nationwide Level 4 lockdown since 20 December, with restrictions also tightened for Christmas Day
Travelling is only allowed for essential purposes, such as for work and for caring responsibilities. International travel is also not allowed.
People are still allowed out of their homes to exercise, for unlimited times and periods each day, and exercise should start and finish at your home.
Inspector Andrew Williams said: ‘We are carrying out high-visibility patrols at Pen y Fan and engaging with people to remind them of their responsibilities to adhere to Welsh Government lockdown restrictions.
‘There are a couple of hundred vehicles in the area.
‘Officers have spoken to one man who had driven from Hertfordshire to walk up the mountain, while a minibus of people from mixed households had travelled from Cheltenham.
‘Fixed penalty notices have and will be issued to those blatant breaches where engagement fails, but the vast majority of people are listening to advice and when they are turning up and seeing RPU vehicles at the site, they are turning around and going home – which is the objective of our high visibility patrols.’
Aled Davies, the Conservative deputy leader of Powys County Council, said he was ‘not angry… just disappointed’ to see people driving out to the rural areas of south Wales.
Mr Davies said: ‘I can understand why people want to get out into the fresh air’ but that ‘the rules are very, very clear around this’.