Coronavirus: Ministry of Defence police stop sailors on the water in Portsmouth Harbour amid Covid-19 lockdown

AUTHORITIES responsible for patrolling the Solent have asked people not to take to the water during the national lockdown, as sailors continue to venture out.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 4:26 pm

Ministry of Defence Police have been stopping pleasure boats in Portsmouth Harbour all week, with two boats out on the water on Saturday, according to a spokesman from the Queen’s Harbour Master in Portsmouth.

He said: ‘There have been a couple of people heading out – they have been turned around by police, saying it isn’t essential exercise.

‘People think they are isolated out on the sea, but they still have to get out there.’

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Jet skiers were photographed while a Copnor resident was taking his dog for a walk. Picture: Alan Strong.

Sailors were risking their own health and the health of coastguard and emergency services crews who may be called upon to help in the event of an emergency, the spokesman added.

He said: ‘Social distancing would have to go out of the window. It would come down to people using personal protective equipment – but it’s still a tricky situation.’

It is ‘not fair’ for sailors to risk emergency service crews breaking social distancing, the River Hamble Habour Authority said in a statement following a rescue operation on Wednesday.

The statement said: ‘In completely benign conditions, we were called out to rescue a single handed sailor who had run aground at the mouth of the river.

‘It is simply not fair to place emergency response personnel in such a position.

‘Going for a run or exercising is one thing, going out on a boat, paddleboard or kayak is another.’

The Langstone Habour Board, in Hayling Island, reported that sailors continued to use the water in the run up to the lockdown – despite the government advising against non-essential journeys.

A spokesman said: ‘Last Saturday, we saw three people out on the water – since then we haven’t seen anyone.’

Just one day after the national lockdown was announced on Monday, two jet skiers were seen riding along Portsbridge Creek.

The jet skiers were out for more than an hour from 11.30am on Tuesday, according to Copnor resident Alan Strong.

The 55-year-old was walking his dogs as part of his daily exercise that is permitted under the lockdown - but he feels it's 'not fair' to push the boat out when it comes to getting fresh air.

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He said: 'The government said you can go out for exercise. Sitting on a boat is not exercise.

'Walking dogs is my only exercise, and I took my camera out with me because that's my hobby.

'It's like there's one rule for them and one rule for us - It's not fair.

'If you want to have fun with your boats - go out to the channel. I suspect they didn't because they knew they would be caught.'

In his address to nation on Monday evening, the prime minister said people would be permitted one form of outdoors exercise a day, including walking, running, and cycling.

Michael Gove appeared on the BBC on Tuesday to add that outdoors exercise included visiting an allotment, but not more social activities such as playing golf.

Boat and water-sport enthusiasts should be sensible and follow government guidelines, according to a spokeswoman from the Royal Yachting Association, which also supports jet-ski owners.

She said: ‘Understandably and under normal circumstances, the RYA would not want to discourage recreational boating activity.

‘However, these are exceptional times and if the government rules are ignored it not only could you put yourself and others at increased risk of contracting the virus, you risk placing an unnecessary potential burden on the emergency services.’

Police have been given the power to fine people upwards of £60 for flouting lockdown rules.