Call to close more footpaths as walkers ignore lockdown in rural areas

Plaid Cymru’s shadow rural affairs minister has raised concerns about the numbers of people still walking across farmland, despite the Covid-19 lockdown – with one worried farmer counting 200 people last Saturday.

Llyr Gruffudd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said the closure of the more popular tourist paths was “a very welcome decision given the urgent need to clamp down on the spread of coronavirus”. But he said farmers with family members in the high-risk category were still seeing large numbers of people coming into the countryside at the weekend.

He has written to the Welsh Government minister Hannah Blythyn seeking clarification on other public footpaths and the dangers posed by people continuing to use them after concerns raised by constituents: “Despite this, your announcement did not address the concerns of those who’ve seen a significant increase in the numbers using public footpaths across farmland in Wales.

“Constituents have contacted me expressing serious concerns that they are at an increased risk of infection from the large amounts of people now using paths on their land, particularly when those paths pass across farmyards or near their homes.

“One constituent in particular has a young child who suffers from cystic fibrosis and is therefore deemed to be at severe risk from Covid-19. The family counted over 200 walkers along footpaths on their farm on Saturday alone.

“As you can imagine, this is an immensely busy time for the family as they’re in the middle of the lambing season. It means they continually need to move around the farm checking their stock. In doing so they regularly come across walkers who are using the same gates and styles as the family. They’re seriously concerned that this significantly increases their risk of infection resulting in a subsequent increased risk to the life of their young son.”

Mr Gruffydd has now urged the Welsh Government to take further action relating to access to public paths on farmland in order to protect the most vulnerable duringn the Covid-19 pandemic. He added: “I’m not calling on the Welsh Government to close down all such paths, but I would urge them to seriously consider restricting access where it could directly put those who are most vulnerable at greater risk.”

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