RNLI calls for ban from all beaches after two deaths at weekend

The chief executive of the RNLI has called on the UK Government to restrict access to the coast until lifeguard patrols are back on beaches.

Mark Dowie issued an open letter following the deaths of two people – including a 17-year-old girl – in separate incidents along the Cornish coastline on Monday.

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

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

“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.”

Mr Dowie said the RNLI “found out about the easing of lockdown restrictions in England” at the same time as the general public and without time to prepare.

The charity must work out how to perform in-water rescues and give first aid in a way that protects staff from risk of infection and find PPE that will work on a beach and in the water, he said.

He described how the RNLI faces an expected £45 million shortfall in funding by the end of the year because many of its fundraising activities have had to stop in the pandemic.

“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,” Mr Dowie said.

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

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