CORONAVIRUS

Spain to recommend reopening beaches at reduced capacity

The draft guidelines also suggest city councils should separate sun loungers and delineate the space allowed for each beachgoer

Beachgoers at La Concha beach in San Sebastián.
Beachgoers at La Concha beach in San Sebastián. /

The Spanish government will recommend that beaches in the country be reopened in summer with measures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus contagion. These include putting limits on capacity, separating sun loungers, and delineating the space allowed for each beachgoer.

Beaches are allowed to reopen under Phase 2 of Spain’s deescalation plan. Up until now, they have been only open for walks and sporting activities. Around 47% of Spaniards are moving into Phase 2 of the national deescalation plan.

The Industry Ministry tasked the Institute of Quality Spanish Tourism (ICTE) with establishing general protocols for reopening beaches, and a draft agreement was reached with regional and local authorities. The final decision on beach regulations will fall to city councils, which are largely responsible for beach management.

Local councils will have to determine whether it is necessary to set up a system that warns people they are unable to go to a beach when it is at capacity

“It’s a draft that still needs to be approved by the Health Ministry, meaning that the final version could be different,” explained a spokesperson from ICTE. “The rules are not binding, but they have been created with the input of the regions and local authorities, so we believe that most of them will be followed.”

Before the draft guidelines were created, some city officials in Spain had already proposed different ideas for how to reopen beaches safely, such as apps to control capacity, closing the beach at high tide, dividing the space into plots, ensuring safe distances between beachgoers, and banning the use of shower facilities.

The ICTE document calls on local governments to estimate the capacity of each beach, taking into account its characteristics and how the space is used, depending on whether beach umbrellas and sun loungers are available for hire. With this information, city councils will have to determine whether it is necessary to control access or set up a system that warns people they are unable to go to a beach when it is at capacity. The guidelines warn that this may require beach staff to be reorganized, and even the use of drones.

The draft recommends the use of beach umbrellas, posts and other elements to signal what areas may be occupied. The document also calls on local authorities to consider how to ensure people on the frontline of the beach maintain a safe distance from the waves.

Meanwhile, the guidelines indicate that areas for sun loungers and umbrellas must be clearly demarcated, with controls set up to ensure that “the equipment has been properly cleaned and disinfected.” The material on sun loungers must be disinfected or replaced after each use and at the end of every day.

The guidelines recommend that municipal authorities assess whether to open toilet facilities at the beaches. If reopened, they must be cleaned and disinfected several times throughout the day. They must also have water, soap, paper towels or hand dryers, and a trash can that does not need to be opened by hand. According to the document, beaches will need to be cleaned more frequently, and workers must be provided with adequate information on hygiene norms.

Some regions in Spain have already outlined their own regulations. In the case of Andalusia, in the south of Spain, regional authorities have recommended limiting time at the beach to four hours, setting out safe distances on the sand, setting opening and closing hours, disinfecting beaches every day, and banning the use of shower facilities and changing rooms. According to these rules, bathrooms must be used only “strictly when necessary” and towels must be at least two meters apart.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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