The detail on official timescales, however, was not announced, but indicated the legislation should be enacted once signed off by the Health Minister

The RYANI has welcomed the announcement that paves the way for the boating community to return to the water, where social distancing and other parameters can be strictly adhered to. The guidance specifically cites social distancing for individuals who do not share a household contact and where there is no shared contact with hard surfaces.   

It essentially moves water activity into Step 1 of the Executive’s plan and, once officially enacted, the legislation allows individuals, or those from the same household, to get on the water.   Further Sector steps were also announced, including ‘outdoor gatherings of up to six people not from the same household (…) but everyone must adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines.’

RYANI’s Chief Operating Officer explains: “The change to legislation permitting outdoor activity now allows recreational activity on the water, where the necessary parameters are in place.   We have been seeking clarification from government agencies and have been assured key messaging is to come out soon.   We urge that any activity is always done in a conservative and considerate manner to help safeguard public health and not put any additional pressure on the emergency services.

He continues: “Individuals should also take time to check all their equipment before going afloat.  Boats, boards, engines etc. have been out of action for a period of time, make sure you thoroughly check your boat over and gradually test your equipment on the water.”  

Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety, adds: "We completely understand that people will want to take to the water, particularly as the weather improves. Our volunteer lifeboat crews are still ready to respond during the public health crisis. However, we are urging anyone who is planning a return to the water to follow key water safety advice, which includes ensuring equipment is maintained and functioning correctly, and making sure that lifesaving apparatus is available. By following this advice we can work together to enjoy a safer summer and reduce the demand on our crews and other emergency services."  

RYANI shared guidance to clubs last week, to allow some preparations to begin, including undertaking risk assessments for club-specific activities and facilities.  We would ask that all members of clubs and the wider community be patient as any parameters in clubs (that are predominantly volunteer-run) are put in place to protect individuals from the risk of infection.   

As further clarification and guidance from government is provided, RYANI will share the necessary advice and information to assure that risk is minimised and public health prioritised.   

Further analysis of remaining Steps is being sought in order to assess when further activity, outside recreational boating, could take place.  

-Ends-

Pic: Windsurfers on Strangford Lough