Industry awaits clarification on opaque restrictions
Among all the lessons which are going to be learned from COVID-19, whether on a national or local scale, one thing we all already know is that messages need to be crystal clear. And, the information is best served at once, rather than letting people pick it over and draw their own conclusions.
Hopefully by later today there will be some clarity, but in the meantime confusion reigns as to what Boris Johnson meant in his speech on Sunday 10th May, and how that affects leisure boating.
The RYA issued an early morning statement welcoming ‘the return to boating’ and urging boaters to take a considerate and cautious approach returning to the water, saying “unlimited outdoor activity will be permitted in England, and we understand that this will include all forms of boating” though when asked for evidence of ‘understanding’ none has yet been received.
“Obviously there’s plenty of new information out there and more to come today,” says a spokesperson from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. “As it stands at the moment, our advice hasn’t changed in the sense we’re still urging people to follow the Government’s guidelines and stay at home where possible to protect our frontline services, while also asking people to consider carefully how their actions, such as trips out for exercise or to the coast or pleasure boating etc., could impact upon our resources at this time.”
This morning, Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast: “You can drive as far as you want to drive to go and walk in a park or a particular area that you’re fond of as long as you maintain the social distancing.
“But obviously, if you’re going from one part of the UK to another, so if you’re going from England to Wales or from Scotland to Wales and different rules are in place because the devolved administrations take a different approach, you need to be very mindful of the regulations that they’ve got in place.”
While angling and swimming (in lakes and rivers) have been mentioned in Government pre-statement briefings to national press there has (yet) to be a significant comment about leisure boating. That said, as sunbathing in the park, and driving to other destinations is allowed, it can be argued that marinas can open for public access (what better place to sunbathe than on your boat?).
This is underpinned by MDL Marinas which has issued a statement on Facebook from Michael Glanville (MD). The company’s taking a cautious approach, saying: “We have social distancing measures in place and look forward to welcoming people coming to perform maintenance and security checks on their boats. And while we understand the reasoning behind the government’s decision to ease lockdown rules in the way it has, we share your frustration about not being able to get out onto the water just yet. We are waiting for any leisure boating changes from the port authorities and will keep you updated with any changes.”
British Marine’s welcomed the opportunity to allow the boating public to visit their boats and get the industry moving again.
“We’re hopeful that the detailed document, due to be released at 2pm today, gives clear guidance to the extent of that access,” says Dean Smith, Commercial Director. “As we know, to allow the boat to be used, we also need the support of harbour authorities, rivers and waterways, and we are working through gaining that alignment right now.”
Alignment, along with clarity, is definitely needed.
“In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the return to boating has not yet been confirmed,” says the RYA. “We will continue to work with our Home Country colleagues to monitor the situation and to lobby for a responsible and safe return for boaters in in all parts of the UK.”
YouGov has published a snap poll this morning which suggests that just three in 10 Brits know what the Government’s new slogan – “Stay alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives” – is asking them to do.
Nick Chater, a Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, told The Telegraph: “In the last few days, there seems to have been public confusion and uncertainty, with a variety of ambiguous and conflicting messages. Clarity needs to be restored urgently, or public unity and trust in government will be undermined.”
According to The Telegraph, the easing of restrictions outdoors follows evidence showing there is less likelihood of transmission of the disease in the open air than indoors.
But, according to an NHS doctor commenting online about the number of people at the coast over the bank holiday weekend: “All the doctor forums are full of this, we are expecting a peak of cases in 14 days, and deaths in 21.”
Fines for breaching the lockdown rules were also increased to £100 for a first offence and up to £3,200 for serial offenders. It is thought doubling the fine each time a person who repeatedly flouts rules to stay at home will give police greater powers to punish those ignoring warnings they could be spreading the coronavirus and putting lives at risk as well as stretching NHS resources.