The RNLI in Wales has reacted to the Welsh Government’s plans for easing lockdown with an important safety warning.
The Government’s changes, from Monday, will limit people to stay local and to not generally travel more than five miles to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading. People from two different households in the same local area will be permitted to meet up as long as they are outdoors, and they maintain strict social distancing. This has prompted the lifesaving charity to call for the public to stay safe.
“After a warm spring coupled with the easing of a lockdown which has seen many of us unable to visit our local beaches, we expect many people to be eager to hit the coast.” said Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager.
“However, the changes to Government guidance does not mean our coasts are safe, the dangers that have always been there remain. We ask those who are local to beaches to continue to be aware of the inherent dangers. Our strong advice to the Welsh public, who are not local to a beach, is to follow the Welsh Government guidance to meet outdoors and exercise locally and not to travel to the coast. Air temperatures may be warming up but the sea temperature remains consistently chilly all year, jumping or falling into cold water or spending longer periods than normal submerged in the water can lead to, potentially fatal, cold water shock.”
Chris Cousens, Water Safety Lead for the RNLI in Wales said: “We urge the Welsh public to remember the following safety advice: Stay in familiar surroundings and follow the Welsh Government advice. Do not put yourself, your family and emergency services at risk by taking risks or assuming it ‘won’t happen to you’. If you do see someone at risk call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”
A high proportion of calls for the RNLI in Wales are to those who have been to people cut off by the tide, including during the lockdown period. Some parts of Wales have amongst the highest tidal range in Europe, and a beach that was clear yesterday at 2pm might be completely covered in sea at the same time today. Chris Cousens said: “If you are heading out for a coastal walk, make sure it is safe before you go. Always check the tide times and conditions before you set off and while out, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the tide direction. Ask for local advice and look out for safety signs. Always carry a means of calling for help and know to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard if you or someone else is at risk.”
The message from the RNLI in Wales is clear, an easing of lockdown does not mean an instantly safer coast and water temperatures remain dangerously cold. Now we are out of lockdown we are working hard to start a lifeguard service on several beaches in Wales, in discussion with the Welsh Government, local authorities, landowners, and other partners. But this takes a few weeks and at present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches in Wales. That is why parents are now being urged to take charge and be ‘beach smart’ if they visit the coast to ensure they and their families have the safest summer possible, whether lifeguards are patrolling their beach or not.