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Hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers asked to 'reduce risk' during coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic

By John Davidson

Those venturing into the hills are asked to stay within their limits. Picture: John Davidson
Those venturing into the hills are asked to stay within their limits. Picture: John Davidson

People heading to the hills are being urged to reduce risk to themselves and others during the coronavirus outbreak.

Mountaineering Scotland, the body that represents hill walkers, climbers and ski-mountaineers, has said enthusiasts should weigh up the issues before choosing to go on an adventure.

While it said that outdoor recreation has substantial benefits to physical and mental health which may be particularly important at this time, the organisation warned that its members had a wider responsibility to others.

A spokesman said: "Against the benefit of taking cash to rural economies there is the risk of bringing infection into a rural community with limited medical resources.

"There’s also the possibility of having an accident either while travelling to the hills or once there. As well as using up pressured NHS resources, those dealing with accidents are put at increased risk of infection."

Scottish Mountain Rescue (SMR), which represents 24 teams across the country, also urged people to stick to "familiar and safe areas".

It said: "Being in the outdoors has many benefits and we are usually very happy to encourage individuals to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Scotland.

"However, during this ongoing situation we ask you not to take any unnecessary risk when enjoying the outdoors. Perhaps go on adventures you are familiar and safe with and while doing so, keep social distancing in mind."

SMR said it was reviewing action plans to ensure it can provide a continuous service, and has asked people caught up in a rescue incident to let police know if they suspect they have coronavirus.

Those heading into the outdoors are asked by Mountaineering Scotland to:

  • Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing.
  • Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment.
  • Have a think if considering using huts or bunkhouses.
  • Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
  • Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
  • Do not assume that mountain rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops – including along the coast that depends on lifeboat and volunteer coastguards.

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