TOURISTS have been urged to stay at home amid the coronavirus crisis by the chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority.

“I never thought I’d encourage people to stay away from the Lake District,” said Richard Leafe.

“However, our footpaths often go through the homes of farmers and their families, our hotels and attractions are closing and our rescue services must be available to support this public health crisis.

“Right now, we need to do all we can to limit the spread of the coronavirus and this means people staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving hundreds of Cumbrian lives.”

The comments came following a weekend in which the national park seemed to play host to a high number of tourists, with photos online showing gatherings of people at various hotspots.

Mr Leafe added: “The Government has made it very clear that all non-essential travel shouldn’t happen, so we are asking people not to come to the Lake District on the basis of that advice.

“Please remember the limited resources that support our local communities, businesses, farmers, police and rescue services are all under pressure at the moment.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron also pleaded with people not to visit the region and promoted the hashtag #StayHomeSaveLives - a phrase which Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell has incorporated into his name on his Twitter account.

Mr Farron described photos on social media of groups at places such as Bowness-on-Windermere and Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale, as ‘hugely alarming’.

“I’m the greatest advocate of people coming to visit our stunning part of the world. So it shows the seriousness of the situation that I feel the urge to say to visitors, who contribute so much to our local economy, to stay at home,” he said.

“The Lake District will still be here after coronavirus has gone, but if you choose to ignore the advice then sadly your loved ones might not be.

“Don’t put lives at risk – please stay at home.”

Cumbria Tourism also supported measures to discourage visitors during the coronavirus outbreak. A spokesman for the organisation said on Twitter: “We all have a responsibility – visitors, tourism businesses and residents - to heed government advice and help save lives.”