The concerns in Gibraltar surrounding beaches and lifeguards are common in many parts of Europe as different countries move away from a state of lockdown.
There are different solutions being advocated in different countries. The RNLI for example, this week urged the United Kingdom Government to close beaches completely following the death of to swimmers.
The provision of lifeguards at Gibraltar’s beaches is normally aligned with the start of the official bathing season. The full complement of lifeguards needs to be properly trained before being deployed to our beaches.
This training would have been completed by now were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.
The Government has already said that it would like the use of our beaches to be as near to normality in the coming bathing season. In such a situation, the bathing season is scheduled to commence in Unlock Phase 4 which starts on 16 June. However, if this is not possible due to a resurgence of the pandemic, other options to allow safe bathing will need to be considered.
The position, as explained on Friday, is that unless the beaches are overcrowded, people will be able to go to the beach in the usual way. It is only when beaches are overcrowded in a manner that threatens social distancing rules and legislation on public gatherings, that access to the beaches will be restricted.
In the meantime, beach users are urged to act responsibly and to use their common sense. This means not going into the water when the red flag is flying and it also means looking after children and young people in order to ensure that they do not do so either.
The Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC said, ‘The Government considers that providing lifeguards now would risk more lives as it will encourage more people to go to the beach. We therefore consider that it is irresponsible not to factor this in when calling for lifeguards to be made available now. It is frankly irresponsible for people to go to the beach before the bathing season is open, to bathe when the red flag is flying and expect a police officer or a life guard or anyone else to risk their lives to save them. There could be no less common sense approach than this.’