Cllr James Mustoe represents Mevagissey on Cornwall Council.
At some point before the weekend I was approached by the managers of a large campsite in my division and asked if I thought they should close due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This conversation would have been unthinkable only weeks earlier, as would have been my response, which was a resounding YES.
A bit of background. Cornwall has always been a land of contrasts. Our beautiful coastlines and rolling vistas along with an amazing heritage and culture make us a prime destination for visitors not just from the UK but around the world. The tourism and hospitality industries are a huge part of our economy, along with farming and fishing.
But with this comes the contrasts. Literally stuck out on a limb, Cornwall’s infrastructure has always been stretched, our rural geography not suitable for effective delivery of services that can be delivered much more efficiently over smaller, urban areas. The massive numbers of visitors we have in the holiday seasons can see this infrastructure, transport, and particularly health, stretched to the breaking point.
Which is why my answer to this large employer in my division, whose visitors bring in millions of pounds every year to Cornwall’s economy, was a difficult but necessary one.
People coming away from our urban centres looking to escape the COVID-19 pandemic will only spread it further into Cornwall. We have seen this happen in Italy and it will happen here too. Our health infrastructure will not cope. People will die.
In short, for now, people need to stop travelling to Cornwall unnecessarily. The Government has already advised against unnecessary travel. Coming on holiday at this time is not vital and should be avoided.
As a Conservative Cornwall Councillor, I have always prided myself on being business friendly, and have always gone out of my way to support, promote, and grow our tourism sector. But these are not normal times. This is primarily a health crisis and we need to realise that only by taking these drastic measures and strictly following the Government guidance, we will get through this.
The Cornish community has always been a strong and welcoming one. I have already been humbled by the way our communities have come together to form volunteer networks. Support groups have come together on a village by village, parish by parish level, to help the vulnerable and make sure no one is forgotten. We will welcome you back when times are less hard.
The Cornish motto is ‘Onen hag oll’, Cornish for “one and all”. I think if we apply this motto and way of life to our country at this difficult time, we will come through it stronger than before.