A call has been made by the RSPCA to keep "dangerous" sky lanterns grounded, as people consider ways of showing their support for the nation’s NHS staff and key workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Reports suggest companies selling sky lanterns have suggested releasing the devices as part of the weekly #ClapForOurCarers proceedings - where people take to their door-steps at 8pm on Thursdays, to applaud many frontline personnel protecting lives during the Covid-19 crisis.

However, RSPCA Cymru has urged the public to keep sky lanterns grounded as part of these occasions - highlighting the significant risk they pose to people and animals, and the possible added strain they could place on key workers at this time of crisis.

Sky lanterns can cause injury and suffering to animals and have a devastating impact on the environment.

The devices – which are lifted into the air via an open flame heat source – can be ingested by animals, or cause entanglement or entrapment. This can lead to wildlife, pets, horses or farm animals suffering injury, stress or even death. When ingested, sharp parts of the lantern can tear and puncture an animal’s throat or stomach, causing internal bleeding.

Lanterns also pose danger as a fire hazard – destroying habitats, and potentially setting animal housing, feed and bedding alight; which could also place added strain on Wales’ emergency services.

Each of Wales’ 22 local authorities has already banned the release of sky lanterns on land which they control following a long-running RSPCA campaign, with calls continuing for a Wales-wide ban. The RSPCA has urged people across Wales to back this campaign by showing their support and gratitude to key workers in other ways - including clapping from their door-steps, decorating signs and contributing to worthy causes.

Dr Julia Wrathall, the RSPCA’s chief scientific officer, said: "It is great that people are looking for ways to show their support for the NHS staff and other key workers at this challenging time - but it is so important people keep sky lanterns grounded.

"Lanterns may look pretty - but they’re actually just pretty dangerous. They can be fatal to animals; destroying habitats, or posing a risk of ingestion, entanglement of entrapment as they return back to Earth.

"Every single local authority in Wales has already banned sky lanterns from being released on their land - highlighting just how dangerous these devices are considered to be.

"As people across Wales pay tribute to key workers amid this time of crisis, we urge them to show support and gratitude through other means - such as clapping from their door-steps, placing decorated signs in their windows and donating whatever they can to worthy causes. And, of course, staying safely at home where possible."