It’s estimated that one third of the global population are currently under lockdown in an attempt to flatten the curve on the spread of COVID-19 and prevent healthcare centers from buckling under the pressure. Governments across the globe have granted their police special powers to ensure that citizens comply with the rules, but one police force in the United Kingdom’s Peak District took things further when they tipped black dye into a blue lagoon to put people off visiting.
The Harpur Hill Quarry, also known as the “Buxton Blue Lagoon”, is a disused limestone quarry in Derbyshire, England. A small part of the quarry has since become flooded forming a lagoon and as a side effect of the quarry’s historic limestone processing the water has a very high pH. Unfortunately, scattered particles have given the water a vivid blue color that, while aesthetically pleasing, often lures in tourists to take a dip in the water, which isn’t terribly safe for human skin. Warning signs have been so ineffective in the past that the local council has twice dyed the water black in 2013 and 2016.
In a Facebook post, the Buxton Police SNT for the Derbyshire Constabulary said they’d receive reports of tourists gathering at the quarry to photograph the Blue Lagoon. They recognized that the recent good weather likely brought people out of their homes but “the location is dangerous, and this type of gathering is in contravention of the current instruction of the UK Government," they warned.
"With this in mind, we have attended the location this morning and used water dye to make the water look less appealing… it has never been so important to discourage these types of gatherings.”
The Derbyshire police have come under fire from a variety of sources for their full-on approach to enforcing the lockdown, using drones to track down ramblers walking their dogs and fining shoppers purchasing items that were not deemed essentials. The government has highlighted that it doesn’t want citizens to drive to picturesque locations to take their daily walk and that exercise should be practiced near your home to try and curb the spread and avoid large gatherings, but some are saying extreme sanctions are putting the country at risk of becoming a “police state”.
Former supreme court justice Lord Sumption singled out Derbyshire police in a radio interview for the BBC's World at One for “trying to shame people in using their undoubted right to take exercise in the country and wrecking beauty spots in the fells” in response to drone footage they've been posting on Twitter alongside the decision to pour black dye into the lagoon.
In the same week, Derbyshire Police reported attending a karaoke party of 25 adults and children stating that “It is clear people are still having complete disregard for the Government advice and rules.” The event may go some way to explaining why this particular unit of the police has felt it necessary to be so proactive in enforcing social distancing.
For those sticking to the government guidelines, watching others flout the rules and force the powers that be to put in stricter sanctions can feel a bit like being in school. We all want to go outside for recess, so could the kids in the back please just sit still for a minute?