The RNLI and Coastguard have launched a new campaign urging people and families to follow key safety advice to save lives at the beach this summer.

The RNLI is not yet providing a lifeguard service at beaches due to the challenges posed by coronavirus and social distancing, meaning the likes of Woolacombe, Croyde, Sandymere and Westward Ho! have no lifeguard cover.

It hopes to patrol around 30 per cent of the beaches it usually covers in time for the peak season, but has warned it cannot be everywhere this summer.

RNLI lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard are still on call to respond to emergencies, but both organisations are urging the public to be aware of dangers, take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones and remember to dial 999 for the Coastguard in an emergency.

Gareth Morrison, RNLI head of water safety, 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.

“It is important that anyone visiting the coast understands that the beach can be a dangerous environment and you must take more responsibility for you and your family this summer. No one ever goes to the coast to be rescued yet RNLI lifeguards rescue 1000’s each year.”

The RNLI and Coastguard are advising the public not to use inflatables at all. People visiting the beach are advised to check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage and parents are asked keep a close eye on their families on the beach and in the water. Parents are also urged not to let members of their family swim alone.

Those who fall into the water unexpectedly are advised to float by leaning back and extending their arms and legs.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard, said: ‘We know from sad experience that whether you’re local or not, whatever your ability or experience in your chosen sport or leisure activity, the sea can still catch you out and be unmerciful when it does. Now, more than ever we need people to respect the sea and the coast.

“If you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we will come to your aid. But coronavirus hasn’t gone away, and we all need to follow the rules.

“Remember your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk. Take extra care in these extraordinary times.”