Theme park staff have been coughed and spat on by verbally abusive guests who refuse to follow the coronavirus safety guidelines, their boss has claimed

Ross Snipp, the head of Flamingo Land theme park in North Yorkshire, has criticised the badly behaved members of the public for flouting the strict new rules at the attraction.

He told Teesside Live how he personally asked a guest to wear a face mask after spotting him not wearing one.

He said: “The vast majority of people are very respectful and understanding of the social distancing guidelines.

“The government’s approach is to “remind and encourage”.

“We could reduce it to one metre – but at the moment standing a metre away from a stranger feels very unnatural and uncomfortable.

“People aren’t ready for that change.

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The park was forced to close in March

“Our staff have had verbal and physical abuse, they have been spat at and coughed at.

“But I know our staff aren’t alone in dealing with this, and it’s a minority – less than 1%.

“One gentleman who I advised to wear a face mask said ‘yes, but not really’.

“He said it wasn’t really law. I said ‘yes it is law’ – and he went back to the car to get his.

“A tiny percentage are not aware of the rules, or not necessarily following them.

Flamingo Land reopened in June

“There is confusion. It’s a challenge, but we accept it as part of being a tourist attraction.”

Flamingo Land’s theme park, in Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, reopened in July, with new measures including social distancing markers and hand washing stations around the park.

The park invested £15,000 in its new safety additions designed to keep guests and staff safe.

But some attractions, including the soft play area and sit-down restaurants have remained closed .

“We don’t feel like the government guidance is sufficient for social distancing in those places yet,” says Ross.

The attraction has a zoo onsite

“We have so many different parts to the operation here.”

The theme park does not screen guests temperatures on arrival due to it being “ineffective”, Ross said.

He added:”It doesn’t work and the government has confirmed this.

“But people ask because of the temperature screening that was happening in the early stages.”

The parks capacity has been slashed to stop overcrowding – meaning guests have to queue for rides if the park is busy.

Ross said: “We have dramatically decreased our capacity.

“On Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend, we had 4,000 guests.

“That is 50% of what we welcomed the same weekend last year – and that has been our busiest day so far.

“Today we have 1,500 guests on site.

“But the reality is, people are still queueing for rides or for food.

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Flamingo Land is a popular attraction in Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire

“We are aware of the perception of how many guests are on site.”

But the park has slashed their prices – with a day visit currently costing £33, down from £41.50 last year, added Ross.

He said: “We don’t believe someone should pay full price this season as a result of the pandemic as we haven’t been able to reopen everything.

“We are a visitor attraction. All our income is from welcoming guests, it’s the reason we’re here.

“We closed the business in March and have gone that length of time without any income.

“We still have 1,200 animals to feed, vet bills, heating, lighting, a complement of zoo staff to care for the animals.

“Lockdown has been challenging for us. Zoos around the UK have struggled, but we’ve all been through this together.

“Hopefully fingers crossed we’re all coming out the other side together.

“And it has been amazing to welcome people back.”

There have been rising cases of people refusing to follow strict coronavirus guidelines by not social distancing or wearing a mask.

Last week, a dad-of-five was pepper-sprayed by police after being told to wear a mask on a train following claims he was coughing at passengers.

On September 5, hundreds of coronavirus sceptics, vaccine conspiracy theorists and protestors opposing masks staged a rally at Holyrood in Scotland to protest lockdown measures.

Before visiting a theme park, guests have been advised to check the rules, with many requiring customers to pre-book and wear a face mask.

We’ve pulled together the latest rules for many of the UK’s most popular theme parks here.