Warning over water safety ahead of lockdown easing
- Credit: Archant
People in Norfolk and Waveney are being urged to stay safe around water ahead of lockdown restrictions easing in England.
Many may be looking to flock to the coast from Monday (March 29), when the government's core coronavirus message switches from 'stay at home' to 'stay local', and the Easter holidays begin.
The term "local" has not been legally defined in this context, despite calls from some MPs to provide additional clarity.
It is thought families will therefore see the change as an excuse to visit the area's beaches and beauty spots for the first time in months.
But, following a summer which saw countless water-related rescues and even deaths across the region, experts say extra caution is essential.
Greg Preston, of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) and chairman of the county's Drowning Prevention Forum, said: "As the first lockdown lifted in 2020, many people headed to coastal and inland water to spend time outdoors.
"We anticipate the same will happen again this spring. We want to make people safer by making them aware of the risks and dangers when around water, what to do if they fall in, and how to help someone who is in trouble.
"In 2019, 223 people accidentally drowned in the UK. 44pc just happened to be near water and had no intention of even entering it."
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Rescue teams are keen to promote water safety with a renewed vigour throughout 2021, in a bid to avoid the kinds of serious incidents seen last year.
One grim weekend for Norfolk saw two people die in the county's waters within a couple of days.
On August 8, the body of Kristers Bednarskis was found by rescue teams at Bawsey Country Park, near King's Lynn, after he got into difficulty in the water.
A day later, Danielle Chilvers died after attempting to rescue two boys who were struggling in the sea at Waxham.
NFRS has offered the following safety advice:
- Ensure you and your family can swim, are confident, and have water safety skills
- Swim at lifeguarded beaches and pools, use safety equipment and do not drink alcohol before going in the water
- Know how to avoid water safety hazards such as rip tides, cold water and moving water
- Be aware of the dangers of open water. Temperatures can drop sharply just below the surface and there may be obstacles underneath