THE RNLI has issued a renewed plea for people to think twice before heading to the coast.

With lockdown restrictions in England easing, lifeboat crews had their busiest weekend of the year so far over the bank holiday, while there were no lifeguards on patrol at crowded beaches.

And while the lockdown is still currently in force across Wales, the RNLI is reinforcing its plea for people to stay out of the sea.

In an open letter, chief executive Mark Dowie said the RNLI found itself in an “impossible situation”.

He said: “Safety advice and warnings will only go so far when people are desperate to enjoy some freedom after weeks of lockdown. But, as a lifesaving charity, the RNLI cannot stop people going to beaches.

“Rolling out a lifeguard service – especially in a pandemic – is not as simple as putting a lifeguard on a beach. We found out about the easing of lockdown restrictions in England at the same time and in the same way as the general public.

“Contrast that with shops, which were given three weeks’ notice and even car showrooms have been given 7-days warning to prepare.

“We have to work out how to do in-water rescues and give first aid – normally conducted at close quarters and often with people coughing up water.

“We have to find PPE that will work on a beach and in the water – visors and aprons are no good on a rescue board. And we have to train our lifeguards in procedures to reduce the risk of infection.

“All this takes time and we learnt of the lifting of restrictions at the same time as everyone else.

“Lifesaving is our priority. But the fundamental sustainability of the charity is also a consideration.

“Local authorities contribute just 20% of the £20 million needed to pay for a normal lifeguard season – the remaining £16 million comes from RNLI donations. Right now, our charity faces an expected £45 million shortfall in funding by the end of the year because many of our fundraising activities have had to stop.

“No-one is to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. We’re asking everyone to help manage an impossible situation, so please follow our safety advice and think before you head to the coast.”

In the Tivyside area, the RNLI has lifeboat stations at Cardigan and New Quay and operates lifeguard services at several beaches during the summer months, including Poppit Sands, Aberporth and New Quay.