PLANNING to visit the coast this weekend?

There are currently no Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeguards on beaches - and the charity is urging people to take care near the water.

Last weekend coastguard rescue teams were call to 194 incidents nationally.

These included people cut off by the tide, visitors on inflatables drifting offshore and people cut off by the tide.

The rescue crews also helped paddleboarders, kayakers and surfers - as well as people walking or cycling along the coast.

The RNLI is hoping to provide lifeguards on about 30 per cent of the country's beaches this summer - due to coronavirus and social distancing guidelines.

They are advising people not to use inflatables at all and keep a close eye on friends and family near the water.

In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard said: "Remember your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk. Take extra care in these extraordinary times."

Gareth Morrison, RNLI head of water safety, said thousands of people are rescued each year.

He said: "If the charity’s lifeguards were present on the beaches today, they would be preventing many incidents before they even occurred by directing people to safe swimming areas, highlighting dangers such as rip currents and advising people not to use inflatables.

"These preventive measures are not currently in place meaning people could find themselves in danger if they are not reading the signs and following the relevant safety advice.

"Our lifeguards are trained to swim 200m within three-and-a-half minutes, and although our volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed, they won’t be able to reach you in the same time."

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