CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS

Barcelona authorities forced to redirect bathers due to large crowds on beaches

Municipal workers had to act after the sands at Nova Icària and Bogatell began to approach the limits permitted under Phase 2 of the coronavirus deescalation plan

Beachgoers on Friday at the Mar Bella beach in Barcelona.
Beachgoers on Friday at the Mar Bella beach in Barcelona.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI / EL PAÍS

Barcelona’s municipal police was forced on Friday and Saturday to redistribute dozens of beachgoers after two of the city’s beaches received a large number of bathers. Monday was the first time that members of the public had been able to access the Catalan capital’s beaches for bathing since the coronavirus crisis began, after the city entered Phase 2 of the coronavirus deescalation process.

The week began with rainy weather, however, and the beaches were well below capacity. The good weather on Friday encouraged people to visit, and as a result municipal workers had to redirect members of the public on the Nova Icària and Bogatell beaches, given that social-distancing measures could not be respected.

Technology will allow for the authorities to monitor the occupation of the coast in real time

The calculations of staff and officers concluded on Friday that Bogatell and Nova Icària were at 60% to 80% of their maximum capacity under Phase 2 of the plan, sparking an “orange alert” and prompting them to redirect beachgoers.

Images of the beaches filled with people quickly started to spread on social media. Some of the photos, however, had been taken with telephoto lenses, which create an optical effect making the people seen on the beaches look a lot more closely packed together than they actually are.

But the scenes were repeated on Saturday, when Nova Icària and Bogatell beaches exceeded 80% capacity. The local police had to intervene to stop more bathers from accessing the shoreline. Megaphones and beach employees supported the officers, requesting that users move to other areas. There was a problem, however, given that other beaches were also heavily occupied – between 60% and 80% of permitted capacity – with the exception of Somorrostro beach and Fórum, where levels were around 50%.

According to Barcelona City Hall, in order to guarantee social-distancing requirements there can only be between 25,000 and 38,000 people on the city’s 10 beaches, given that each person is calculated to use between six and nine square meters of sand.

The council has been putting up fences around the Ciutat Vella beaches – Somorrostro, Barceloneta, Sant Miquel and Sant Sebastià – and will only allow access via certain points in order to control capacity. These are the beaches that have had the most visitors in recent years, but given the lack of tourists it appears that local residents are mostly opting to go to Nova Icària and Bogatell.

Barcelona City Hall today finished the installation of 18 video sensors that can measure the occupation of the 10 beaches in the city and regulate capacity as beachgoers arrive. On the first day of their use on Saturday, access to the beach had to be closed given the large numbers of people.

English version by Simon Hunter.

More information