Volunteers who selflessly rescue people from the mountains surrounding Keswick are issuing a public “stay away” plea in a bid to help keep themselves and their own families safe from coronavirus.
Nearly half the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team are already either unavailable because of coronavirus restrictions or are busy as health workers and team leader Chris Higgins fears those still available or their close relatives could become infected with Covid-19 from emergency call-outs on the local fells.
There have been just seven rescues across the whole of the Lake District during the last last seven weeks compared to 50 over the same period last year as most people have followed national advice and kept away during lockdown.
However, Chris has concerns that the easing of lockdown from today – and specifically people being allowed to travel to exercise – will bring a surge of visitors to the Lake District. He wants people not to travel to the Lakes and to instead stay local to exercise.
“Our volunteers have to look at the effects on the rest of their families should they bring the virus home following a call-out,” said Chris, who added that 25 per cent of the Keswick team were health professionals who had been “working their socks off” in recent months. Nearly 25 per cent more were not available for duty because they or their family members were in the coronavirus high risk category.
Chris said: “It is very difficult to effect rescues to our usual high standards of speed and the number of people we have on each shout because of the extra precautions we need to take. Also the infrastructure is not ready to take a surge in numbers at the moment.” He admitted it was a “shock” when prime minister Boris Johnson announced the easing of restrictions on Sunday. Chris said: “The coronavirus is still with us and still as contagious.”
A similar message has gone out from Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association, the umbrella organisation for teams including Keswick who now have to wear personal protection equipment and stringently clean kit and vehicles. It thanked everyone who has stayed at home and kept themselves and mountain rescue volunteers safe in recent weeks.
LDSAMRA chairman Richard Warren said: “We cannot stress enough the importance of staying off the high fells. Apart from helping to protect our volunteers from the risk of Covid 19, it helps reduce the workload on our NHS.”
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, gave the county’s latest coronavirus update saying: “We have had well over 2,000 confirmed infections and around 400 deaths as a result of COVID-19 and it’s only as a result of the lockdown restrictions that those grim totals aren’t even worse. We understand that lockdown can’t last forever. We certainly don’t want it to but I’d urge people to really consider whether a visit to the Lake District is the right thing to do at the current time. As the Government says, the best way to beat this virus remains to stay home as much as possible.”