CIVIC leaders have made a renewed plea for residents to stay at home during the lockdown, as latest figures suggest footfall may be slowly creeping up in Dorset.

BCP Council leader Vikki Slade told the Echo it was "disappointing" that more people appeared to be using the town's beaches and queuing outside shops.

She was speaking after the latest data suggested people across Dorset were also increasing visits to grocery stores and pharmacies.

"It is disappointing that since Easter there appears to have been an increase in people leaving home for various reasons and worryingly more people using our beaches," said Cllr Slade.

"Whilst it is of course important that residents collect their essential groceries and medication when they need them it appears that some may be going out more regularly than is needed.

"I would like to ask residents to think about their needs before shopping so they can minimise the number of trips they take and as a result reduce the queuing we are seeing outside shops. "

Figures compiled by Google, who analysed location data from phones and other personal devices, focused on people's movement at home, at retail and recreation establishments, grocery stores and pharmacies, public transport hubs, and parks and green spaces.

This data showed footfall in grocery stores and pharmacies in Dorset is now only 34 per cent below normal levels. The same data showed it was 44 per cent below normal a week earlier and 47 per cent down the week before that.

Meanwhile, the Daily Echo has also received numerous reports from anxious readers of an increase in people congregating in and around the beachfront in recent days.

When we took a look there were a number of people who appeared not to be maintaining social distancing rules, some of them even drinking alcohol and relaxing in the sun.

Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan, who has regularly underlined the need to stay indoors and protect the NHS and other frontline services, said: "Now is not the time to become complacent. It is more important than ever that we continue to follow the restrictions and stick together as a community.

"I understand that none of this is easy and people are feeling worried, anxious and frustrated, but these measures won’t be for long and we need to dig deep and remember why we are being asked to follow the restrictions."

With the weekend set to be another relatively sunny one, some people may feel a greater need to push the boundaries of the lockdown.

To that end the council has erected a number of large signs at the beachfront and pier asking people to stay at home and protect the NHS.

Cllr Slade said: "For those people who have underlying medical conditions or are more vulnerable we would encourage them to use our volunteers who are shopping for multiple households in the TogetherWeCan programme.

"Residents can register for this service seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm on 0300 123 7052. In line with Government guidance we are keeping our open spaces including parks and beaches open but these should only be used for exercise close to home and would ask people to walk or cycle from home and to maintain full social distancing of at least two-metres wherever they are so we can keep everyone safe and reduce the impact on the NHS.”

Earlier in the week a Bournemouth skate park was shut down by police after groups of around 30 people were spotted using the facility at the same time.

Officers from the Bournemouth North Neighbourhood Team said they "sadly" had to take the decision to shut Slades Farm skate park.

An officer from the team said: "We understand that people will be upset about this action but it is for the good of everyone whilst the lockdown conditions are in place."

Police taped off the skate park midweek but residents reported seeing people back at the park after officers left the scene.

On the Google figures, reports showed retail in Dorset had seen the biggest drop-off in activity across the five non-residential categories – 82 per cent below normal levels.

This is a bigger drop than the UK average, with footfall nationally down by 81 per cent.

Dominic Raab, continuing to stand in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the UK has not reduced the rate of infection of Covid-19 enough to allow strict measures to be lifted.

He said: "The very clear advice we have received is that any change to the our social distancing measures now would risk a significant increase in the spread of the virus."