THE Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging anyone planning a visit to the coast to stay safe and not take any unnecessary risks.

Given the current COVID-19 outbreak and the importance of social distancing and avoiding non-essential contact with others, coastal areas may be seen as providing an opportunity to enjoy fresh air and exercise while adhering to the government’s guidance.

But coastal areas can also present dangers of their own.

The RNLI is asking people to take the time to take note of signage at the entrances of beaches advising of the local hazards, check tide times to avoid being cut off and to check weather conditions before setting out as these can change quickly.

If you see someone in difficulty, or you get into difficulty yourself, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

RNLI regional water safety lead, Chris Cousens said: “Our beaches 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.

“The weather might be improving but it’s important to remember that the water is very cold this time of year.

“Whether you’re fishing, surfing, kayaking, sailing or just going for a walk, we’re asking people to be extra responsible and to avoid taking unnecessary risks to themselves and others which could put unnecessary pressure on front line services.

“Take care if walking near cliffs - know your route; check tide times daily; if going afloat, carry a means for calling for help and always wear a lifejacket; check your equipment is in good working order; be aware of the conditions and your capabilities and only enter the water if it is safe to do so.

“During these unprecedented times, we have taken steps to close our lifeboat stations and shops to the public.

“However, RNLI lifeboats and stations remain fully operational and we will still launch to those in peril on the sea.

“As with all public places we’d encourage people to follow guidelines provided by the government to maintain a two-metre distance, follow good hygiene practices and avoid mass gatherings.”