26 March 2020

Last wave: COVID-19 ends beach patrols one month early on South Coast

| Michael Weaver
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Tathra Beach

Surf Life Saving patrols will end on beaches like Tathra a month early due to COVID-19. Photo: Sapphire Coast Tourism.

Surf Life Saving patrols on Far South Coast beaches in the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley shires will end this Saturday (28 March), one month earlier than usual due to fears about COVID-19.

In light of the cancelled patrols, which were scheduled to end on 26 April, the director of lifesaving for the Far South Coast Branch, Cheryl McCarthy, said they have been fortunate not to face the high numbers of beach-goers that other parts of the state have experienced.

Ms McCarthy said the organisation has to balance the health and safety of its volunteers with the need to keep beach-goers safe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.

“Our Far South Coast Surf Life Saving clubs have been working hard to find an effective balance between ensuring the health and safety of our volunteer members while maintaining our commitment to protect the public visiting our beaches,” she said.

“However, we also have far fewer volunteer patrol members than clubs in metropolitan areas and the risks to many of those venturing out are placing pressure on our typical patrol structure.”

In place of beach patrols, lifesavers will be increasing their on-water roving presence and support operations capability with jet skis and IRBs taking to the water wherever possible on weekends.

“The health and safety of our volunteers is foremost in our minds and, as with organisations everywhere right now, we’re adapting to a rapidly changing environment and looking at ways in which we can deliver our services differently and still achieve our goal of keeping the public safe,” Ms McCarthy said.

“Our emergency callout capacity remains unchanged with all club callout teams prepared and ready to respond to emergencies as required 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“We’ll still be there to help keep an eye on people, you’ll just see us out on the water rather than on the beaches and you’ll see us up and down the coastline rather than confined to regular patrol areas.”

Ms McCarthy encouraged people heading to the beach to be mindful of the advice from governments to limit movements in large groups as much as possible.

“Just as beaches are unpatrolled during the week and we need to take responsibility for ourselves when swimming, no beach patrols on weekends means you should always stop and assess the conditions before entering the water and never swim alone,” she said.

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