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Beach Chaos Threatens Europe as Temperatures Rise

Posted on the 23 May 2020 by Thiruvenkatam Chinnagounder @tipsclear

(CNN) - With summer approaching, temperatures are starting to rise in Europe and citizens are turning to their next vacation after months stranded at home under lockout restrictions.

As recently as last week, the European Union unveiled a plan to "give people the opportunity to rest, relax and get some much-needed fresh air", which included recommendations for opening internal borders , relaunch rail, road, air and sea connections and reinvigorate its hotel sector to boost tourism.

But authorities are already struggling to cope with an influx of tourists and locals to one of the most coveted places of the summer: the beach.

On Wednesday, only a few days after France's locking restrictions eased the opening of hundreds of beaches, the Brittany prefecture north-west of Morbihan closed five beaches following "unacceptable behavior" and non-compliance with social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Dutch coastal province of Zeeland have temporarily closed city roads for every weekend until June 1, due to the good weather forecast and the expectation of violation of emergency measures. .

Summer - but with more rules

Travel expert Tony Johnston told CNN that as the summer season approaches, people are forced to go to places of beauty such as beaches, their own country or further afield.

He said authorities need to prepare clear strategies to deal with an influx of tourists and overcrowding at the start of the holiday season.

"Whether it happens this weekend or mid-July, it will certainly happen - it is inevitable that we will have good weather at some point across the continent and the problem will arise," said Johnston, chief from the Department of the Athlone Institute of Technology. hospitality, tourism and leisure.

He said that instead of imposing a total ban on tourism, the authorities would do their best to encourage good behavior on the beach, noting that the closures will only "push the problem elsewhere.

Local authorities in some countries have already started to lay down guidelines on how they will reopen busy beaches.

After one of the strictest closings in Europe, the Spanish Minister of Tourism, Reyes Maroto, told the local newspaper El Pais that the country "defines different scenarios" for beachgoers.

"We have to guarantee, when international tourism opens, that the person who comes to Spain is a safe person," Maroto recently told the local newspaper El Pais.

"On how you can enjoy our beaches, we define different scenarios," he said.

In Sanxenxo, Galicia, cleaning machines will be regularly installed on the beaches, and public bathrooms and showers will be regularly disinfected.

The authorities of certain French prefectures, such as the Landes in New Aquitaine, have so far committed to opening the beaches only for "dynamic individual physical activities".

Johnston told CNN that with so many regions - particularly in Spain, Italy, France and Greece - dependent on tourism, officials should be concerned with encouraging safe tourism and should have policies to promote good tourism. hygiene in public spaces such as bathrooms and restaurants. .

"We have around 330 million people working in tourism. There is going to be a challenge between satisfying the needs and wants of tourists, as well as the economic impact of tourism, against the whole situation of Covid," he said. he declares.

Behavior change

As the weather warms up, experts are also concerned that compliance with directives on social distancing has already started to slip. In an ongoing study, researchers from University College London found that less than 50% of respondents under the age of 30 "completely" complied with the lock rules.

Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at UCL, told CNN that evidence from long-term quarantine situations around the world has shown that lack of compliance often results from boredom, frustration , depression and anxiety.

"If you think about the psychology of it, you weigh the pros and cons of staying inside versus going out. The arguments against going out and meeting friends is that we still have a pandemic and that this virus is getting transmits very easily, "she said.

She added that the better the weather, the more people there were.

"But that being said, viral transmission occurs massively inside, not outside. So, in fact, the outside is relatively safe - it's the people who meet inside. It's a real problem, "she added.

In order for people to comply with the guidelines on social distancing, there must also be a high level of public concern about Covid-19 and trust in the authorities, she said.

Governments, she said, should be clear, precise and consistent with the messages of this summer. "You know exactly who is allowed to do what, when, where and how."

Second wave risk

Deaths from the virus may have declined daily in many European countries, but experts warn that the continent could risk a second wave if they don't walk carefully.

Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of England in East Anglia, told CNN that the risk of spreading the virus outside remains low, but encouraged social distancing and hygiene, like regular hand washing.

The risk of the virus spreading will depend on the number of people visiting tourist hotspots and how they act when they get there, he said.

Pointing to the UK, which has seen a decline in the number of officially registered deaths in recent days, he said: "We have seen new cases drop quite dramatically in the past three, four weeks, if not more actually , and therefore, be in fact so many risks associated with a personal level.

"However, if we see an increase in the number of cases again and people pile up like sardines on the beaches or in the surrounding pubs and in restaurants and things like that, then that risk is quite high", he warned.

"The danger is that as we open up, we could actually start going to the second wave," he added.

CNN's Eva Tapiero, Sophie Stuber, Mick Krever, Al Goodman, Tamara Hardingham-Gill contributed to this report.


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