BY Jo Ward
As beaches are opening up in and around Gibraltar and people start to re-engage with the ‘new normal’, how can you make sure that you enjoy the beach, and all it has to offer, safely? It’s true that being outdoors provides more air circulation, which makes it easier for coronavirus particles to diffuse, but it still makes sense to practice social distancing, even on the beach.
There is no doubt that it can be difficult to stay away from other beachgoers, but changes have to take place and spreading out deckchairs, towels and sun umbrellas several metres apart is a definite must. Some European beaches will have already installed roped off grids containing loungers or booking systems with time limits for morning or afternoon slots, but if you just take your chance and find the beach too crowded when you arrive, why not wait until another day?
Before you leave home and head off, use some disinfectant wipes to clean your chairs and even the kids’ beach toys. Taking a ball may not be a good idea given that after being on the ground it could bounce against someone else, or the kids may bring it near to their face without meaning to.
Masks, although not compulsory in open spaces here, may give you an added sense of security but be mindful that they don’t offer immunity from coronavirus and if you do wear one, make sure that you choose a material that’s breathable. As long as you are keeping your distance then masks are not necessary, but try to keep it clean and dry and don’t let it get wet or dirty. Keep your masks away from sunscreen too. Be careful when taking your mask on and off and try not to push it down around your neck or up onto your forehead which could make it easy for potentially contaminated surfaces to come into contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you want to paddle at the water’s edge or go into the sea, remember that people spread coronavirus, not water, so don’t swim too close to other people where there is a likelihood of coming in contact with their breath. Also, don’t wear a mask in the water, it’s just not practical and a wet mask can be dangerous if it obstructs your breathing.
Practicing good hygiene is a must do. Try not to blow your nose, or spit in the sand or water near another person. If you can, use a tissue to cough or sneeze, then wash your hands. It does no harm to go well stocked up with hand sanitizer and to try and avoiding touching things or surfaces unnecessarily. If you do venture to the public toilet, obviously wash your hands – 20 seconds, with soap and water – and then apply hand sanitiser afterward.
Using sunscreen regularly is still as important as ever but make sure that common sense prevails and either apply it yourself or designate one member of your isolation squad to do it for you on those hard to reach places.
One of the joys of spending the day at the beach is eating al fresco; taking a picnic or having a barbecue is great, but please don’t share food, cutlery, plates or drinks. It’s not the food that is a risk, but touching shared dishes or utensils could be.
The worry is that when we get to the beach we forget about COVID-19 and immerse ourselves in having fun and socialising. Going to the beach and being in the open air is good for our physical and mental health, but do remember to continue to take precautions.