Mourne Mountain Rescue Team appeals to people to stay at home as it restricts call-outs
A mountain rescue team has asked people to stay at home during the Covid-19 crisis as it may not be able to respond to some emergency calls.
Mourne Mountain Rescue Team said it has found itself in "uncharted waters" due to the risk of infection when helping casualties.
It said it had "made a number of difficult choices" following "high volumes of people observed in the mountains over the last weekend".
If it receives a call where a person is uninjured or lost, they will now be asked to "consider waiting until morning and/or better visibility to extricate yourself".
If someone is walking wounded, they will be asked to consider extricating themselves.
Where a casualty is seriously injured or physically unable to get themselves off the mountain, it will attend "with the absolute minimum of team members needed", adding that because of this "the evacuation will be less straightforward".
Helicopter support will only be requested "if a time critical injury is sustained".
Martin McMullan, one of the co-ordinators of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, said the safety of its 35 members is a priority.
"Covid-19 is a very serious threat and everyone must face up to their responsibilities in order to limit the spread of the virus," he said.
"Our first priority has to be the safety of team members, their families and our community. We are all volunteers, many of whom live with and care for 'vulnerable' people at home and in our working lives.
"Government guidelines have been very clear and many people have chosen to ignore this, putting everyone at risk.
"By its very nature, mountain rescue requires close contact between both rescuers and casualty, exposing everyone to the risk of infection. Remember, we could also infect you.
"Our already over-burdened ambulance service and hospitals don’t need or want any avoidable admissions over this difficult period.
"While contrary to everything we believe in, these measures are necessary to protect team members, their families and our community at this time."
He added: "We are asking walkers/climbers/runners/bikers to forgo their enjoyment of the mountains for the moment and to stick to confined alternatives, while strictly observing government guidelines.
"Otherwise there may come a time when the team may not be able to respond at all. Remember, the mountains will always be there."