Keep people away from beaches until lifeguard patrols return, RNLI chief urges government

George Martin
·3-min read
CHALLABOROUGH, ENGLAND - MAY 23: A warning notice is displayed informing visitors that there is no RNLI Lifeguards on duty on May 23, 2020 in Challaborough, England. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
A warning notice is displayed in Challaborough, south Devon. (Getty)

The head of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has called on the government to keep people away from beaches until lifeguard patrols return.

Mark Dowie, the lifeboat service’s chief executive, wrote to the government in an open letter urging people to avoid the seaside where possible where RNLI patrols are not operating.

“With thousands flocking to English beaches now lockdown restrictions have been eased, we must choose between keeping the public or our lifeguards safe,” Dowie wrote.

“Safety advice and warnings will only go so far when people are desperate to enjoy some freedom after weeks of lockdown.

SOUTHEND-ON-SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Crowds of people gather on the beach on a warm and sunny May Day bank holiday on May 25, 2020 in Southend-on-Sea, United Kingdom. The British government has started easing the lockdown it imposed two months ago to curb the spread of Covid-19, abandoning its 'stay at home' slogan in favour of a message to 'be alert', but UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
Crowds of people gather on the beach on a warm and sunny May Day bank holiday in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. (Getty)
People enjoy the sunshine on the beach and in the sea in Margate, south east England on May 26, 2020, after some lockdown restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 were partially eased earlier this month. - Britain's number of deaths "involving" the coronavirus has risen to 46,000, substantially higher than the 36,914 fatalities officially reported so far, according to a statistical update released Tuesday. The daily death tolls released in Britain only include fatalities that have been confirmed by a positive test. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
People enjoy the sunshine on the beach and in the sea in Margate, south-east England. (Getty)

“As a lifesaving charity, the RNLI cannot stop people going to beaches – but the Government can – before more lives are lost around our coast this summer.”

It follows the deaths of two people in separate incidents along the Cornish coastline on Monday.

A 17-year-old girl died after a boat capsized near Wadebridge and a man died after being pulled from the water by a member of the public in Padstow.

The RNLI says it is still working out how to do in-water rescues and give first aid whilst observing safety protocol related to coronavirus.

Members of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) patrol the water on a hovercraft as beachgoers enjoy the sunshine on the beach and in the sea on the May Bank holiday, in Southend-on-Sea, south east England on May 25, 2020, after lockdown restrictions, originally put in place due the COVID-19 pandemic, were lifted earlier this month. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday backed top aide Dominic Cummings despite mounting pressure from within his own party to sack him over claims he broke coronavirus lockdown regulations. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the RNLI patrol the water on a hovercraft in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. (Getty)

Since rescues are normally conducted at close quarters and with people coughing up water, it poses a risk of the infection spreading.

Lifeguards also have to be trained in procedures to reduce the risk of infection and given adequate personal protective equipment.

"All this takes time and we learnt of the lifting of restrictions at the same time as everyone else,” Dowie added.

"So, we're asking for help to manage an impossible situation – we're asking the public to heed our safety advice and we're asking the Government to restrict access to the coast until we have lifeguard patrols back on beaches."

"Only then can we keep the public safe from the sea and our lifeguards safe from the virus."

Yahoo News UK has contacted the Department for Transport and the Department
of Health for comment.

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