THERE were quite unbelievable scenes at Durdle Door over the weekend: thousands of visitors packed on the beach and people injuring themselves by ‘tombstoning’ from the Door. As a result, various emergency services - including two helicopters - were needed to deal with the situation.

Not surprisingly, this has prompted outrage on social media, most of it directed against the members of the public who were on the beach. They were stupid, selfish, Darwin Awards candidates, ‘Covidiots’ and so on. Most commentators, however, seemed to ignore the government’s role in this.

While not denying the responsibility of individuals, we should also acknowledge that this situation was caused at least in part, by those in power.

Governments understand that people cannot always be trusted to act reasonably, ethically or with common sense - that’s why we have laws, police, a court system and so on in the first place. Good leaders know this and legislate accordingly. And the current government has failed spectacularly in their handling of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

I think a reasonable analogy is with drink driving and speeding laws. Everyone knows that it’s stupid and reckless to get behind the wheel while you’re drunk, or to drive a car at 70mph through a residential area.

But the government doesn’t just trust the masses to apply common sense, and so there are laws in place. We all know that without those laws, the number of deaths on the road would increase, as a direct result of drunk driving and speeding. For some people, knowing that it’s irresponsible and dangerous to drive while under the influence just isn’t enough - they need the threat of large fines, losing their licence and potential jail time to keep them in line.

No responsible government would repeal drink driving or speeding laws and simply tell people to ‘Stay Alert’ and just be sensible; and there would be an outcry if they proposed doing so.

In the current situation, completely removing travel restrictions, telling people they can go anywhere they want, stay out as long as they want, sit on the beach, sunbathe and so on - but just Stay Alert - is just as irresponsible.

So yes, all those people on the beach have to accept responsibility for their actions and any spreading of the coronavirus which may follow. But so does our government. Don’t let them off the hook.

Mark Bauer

High Street