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RNLI Manages COVID Risk for Lifeboat Crews as UK Lockdown Resumes

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During lockdown, the RNLI seeks to conserve resources for marine rescues like this one - a fishing vessel grounded off Ireland on Thursday (RNLI / Stephen Harris)

By The Maritime Executive 01-07-2021 09:47:00

The UK and Ireland are contending with another wave of COVID-19, driven by a new and more virulent strain. An estimated one out of every 30 residents of London now have the virus, according to the BBC, and the patient load at Britain's hospitals is 40 percent higher now than what it was last spring. 

The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered its third national lockdown in a year's time, and the latest includes a mandatory stay-at-home order. Ireland's government has announced similar measures, including school closures. As the lockdown begins, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is again calling on the public to exercise caution at the coast. Its volunteer lifeboat rescue crews remain on alert to help commercial fishermen and mariners in distress, but the charity aims to minimize the burden of rescues involving the general public during this particularly challenging time. Every time a lifeboat crew is called to an incident, it puts additional pressure on RNLI volunteers and potentially exposes them to COVID-19, the organization warned.

"During lockdown, RNLI lifeboats and stations remain operational and will launch around the clock where there is risk to life," said Gareth Morrison, RNLI head of water safety. "We would encourage everyone to follow the latest government guidelines on what they are able to do and where they are able to go during lockdown, but for anyone visiting a coastal area please understand the risks to be as safe as possible and not put unnecessary strain on front line services. 

Morrison warned that in a normal year, about 150 people lose their lives at the coast, and the majority never intended to go into the water. He called on the public to "be extra responsible and avoid taking unnecessary risks."

"Our beaches and coastal areas may see an increase in visitors in the days and weeks to come, so we’re urging everyone to follow our advice and stay safe," he said. "We ask people to stay well back from stormy, wintery seas and cliff edges, check tide times before you go, take a phone with you, and call . . .  the Coastguard if you or someone else is in trouble."