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Emergency services / RNLI reminds people to stay on land during lockdown after search for missing kayakers

Aith lifeboatThe Aith lifeboat. Photo: Shetland News

PEOPLE are being advised to avoid the water during the lockdown period after two kayakers who were late in returning to shore sparked a brief search and rescue operation in Shetland on Sunday.

Both voluntary coastguard crews and the Aith lifeboat team were alerted when the kayakers were reported missing from the Maywick and Bigton area at 5pm.

The lifeboat was called out to assist coastguard crews in case of a full search, but before it could reach the area the overdue kayakers were confirmed to be safe and well.

After around one hour at sea, the lifeboat crew was stood down.

The kayakers were spotted on the uninhabited island of South Havra.

Aith lifeboat coxswain John Robertson said every callout could potentially expose its crew and others to the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19.

“RNLI volunteers are always on hand to respond to emergencies at sea, but these emergencies can be avoided just now by following government guidelines,” he said.

“Whilst one spell of outdoor exercise is allowed every day, the RNLI is advising folk not to exercise on or in the sea. Every time a lifeboat crew is called out during the Covid-19 crisis, it potentially exposes our volunteers – and others – to the risk of catching and spreading the virus.”

RNLI’s head of water safety Gareth Morrison added: “Our lifeboat crews are still at the ready 24/7 – thanks to their own courage in a time of crisis, and the generosity of our supporters.

“Sadly, though, we can’t arrange fundraising events, open our shops, or welcome people to lifeboat stations at the moment, which means that our ability to fundraise has been severely impacted. This could be the biggest storm the RNLI has ever faced.”

People are also being reminded that the RNLI charity can be supported with donations via its website.