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Mobile apps, drones and controlled access to beaches, as the Costa prepares for summer

Sunbeds and umbrellas.
Sunbeds and umbrellas. / Salvador Salas
  • The regional government has approved a list of guidelines as local authorities are now faced with the challenge of how to guarantee distancing and hygiene on the beaches this summer

Coastal towns are getting ready to ensure that the 161 kilometres of beaches in the province can open in Phase Two of the easing of restrictions under safe conditions and, as far as possible, without crowds. Malaga is expecting this to be from 1 June, although the regional government has asked the government to bring it forward to 25 May. All the councils plan to carry out extra cleaning and disinfection, provide information via beach monitors, signs and megaphones and, which is most complicated, control overcrowding on the most popular beaches, which are normally those in the towns. The Junta de Andalucía recommends setting a maximum number of users, based on the recommendation of at least a two-metre distance, but is leaving this to town halls to decide. In practice, it is not going to be easy, and the councils are looking for ways to control the numbers without having to create gateways, which would be extremely complicated. Many are looking at mobile apps and even drones so they can see in real time how busy each beach is, and whether it needs to be closed.

This technology will also be available for the public, so people can choose where to go before setting off. Some places, such as Benalmádena, are considering closing some accesses to make it easier to control numbers.

To lend the councils a hand, and depending on what the Junta ends up contributing after its president, Juanma Moreno, said this week that it would offer "human resources and materials" to town halls, the Diputación (provincial government) has begun its 'Playas Covid-Free' project, which consists of an app with continual information about the conditions everywhere on the coast. At the moment it is being tested in Torremolinos and Rincón de la Victoria.

Sensors in Fuengirola

Fuengirola council has perhaps the most pioneering plan of all, with around 60 artificial intelligence sensors in street lights along its seven kilometres of coast to control crowding on beaches. Anyone would be able to access this information via a free mobile app. This tool, designed by local company Juma, creates virtual grids and establishes a maximum occupancy figure based on the recommended two-metre distancing. If the occupancy level on the beach is correct it will show up in green, if it reaches 75 per cent it will change to amber and if it goes up to 100 per cent then it will turn red.

Malaga city is also looking at different apps, but recognises the complexity of having to control access to its 13.5 kilometres of beaches. The council is calling on people to be responsible about complying with social distance and hygiene recommendations, in addition to monitoring by the Local Police, lifeguards and Civil Protection. It has announced that showers and footbaths cannot be used, to prevent contagion.

Marbella, which with 27 kilometres has the largest stretch of coast in the province, is working on different scenarios but always with flexibility in mind. There are more than 250 accesses to its beaches, so this will be difficult to control. However, it does have one advantage, which is that apart from some urban beaches, overcrowding is not normally a problem

The council is working on different aspects. First, an app to control numbers, which will also use information from Local Police drones.They are investing in more signs and megaphones and will work with beach businesses to reconfigure spaces for sunbeds.

In Benalmádena, the council is still drawing up the contingency plan demanded by the Junta, and this will include closing some accesses to beaches in order to focus on those which have been prepared. This will mean extra monitoring by lifeguards and Civil Protection, additional use of the Local Police information network, and there are also plans for an app to help measure numbers of people on the beaches.

Torremolinos has not yet announced any details, and in Estepona the local authority is not too worried about crowding because, apart from the Playa del Cristo, this is not normally a problem.

Axarquía

In Vélez-Málaga, as well as introducing a 2.5-metre grid system on the sand, the council is applying for permission to use a drone to check the numbers of people on its 23 kilometres of coast. So far it doesn't know how it will control entry to and exits from beaches, nor the maximum numbers, although the idea is to use an app.

In Rincón de la Victoria the lifeguard service has been expanded to include a special monitoring team and there will be at least 18 lifeguards a day along the nine kilometres of coast.

So far, Nerja and Torrox councils have only said they will adapt in accordance with the Health authority guidelines and the recommendations from the Junta.

MEASURES PROPOSED BY THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA FOR THE USE OF BEACHES IN PHASE TWO

Numbers: The maximum will vary and could be no more than 50 per cent

The contingency plan being drawn up by councils has to set a maximum number of users allowed on the beaches. How many should this be? The Junta doesn’t specify this, just refers to Health authority guidelines. However, it has said that on some beaches the capacity might have to be reduced to 50 per cent. It also recommends a distance of at least two metres between users, marked by signs on the ground, and all personal items such as towels, bags and cool boxes will have to remain within that safety perimeter.

Mobile apps, drones and controlled access to beaches, as the Costa prepares for summer

Opening and closing times: Timetable to allow for daily cleaning

There will be opening and closing times for beaches so that they can be cleaned and disinfected at the start and end of each day. The councils will decide the times that the beaches can be used. In terms of sports activities, recreational or professional, these will only be allowed if they can be done individually and with no physical contact. In other words, there may be none of the usual football or bat and ball games on the beaches this summer.

Access: Those who arrive and those who leave, separated

The accesses to the beaches will have to have information signs showing the new regulations. When entering and leaving the beach, people must maintain social distancing from those coming the other way. If this is not possible, a special entrance and separate exit will have to be provided. On beaches where there is enough space, special areas should be allocated for people with mobility difficulties and those over the age of 65. Also, if the beach becomes full and people are waiting for someone to leave, shaded areas should be provided for them, always enabling them to maintain social distancing. Equally, entry to and exit from nearby parking areas should be controlled and staggered.

Distancing on the beach and in the sea: Councils have the right to ban inflatables

Town halls are obliged to introduce preventive and general safety measures for people who use their beaches, regarding physical distancing and respiratory hygiene. They are also permitted to prohibit certain recreational activities until the pandemic situation allows them to resume. It will be obligatory for children under the age of 14 to be accompanied by an adult on the beach at all times. The Junta also stipulates that councils have the right to ban floating sunbeds and other inflatables if they wish to do so.

Showers and footbaths: One person at a time and no manual controls

The Junta recommends that as far as possible showers and footbaths should have no manual controls, so people don’t have to touch them. If this is not possible, then special attention must be paid to cleaning and disinfecting of any parts which could come into contact with people’s skin. These facilities may only be used by one person at a time, unless accompanied by children or dependents.

Sunbeds and sun umbrellas: Placed apart, no mattresses and cleaned after every use

Like the other recommendations, the first priority is to arrange them so a safe distance is guaranteed or, if this is not possible, to place physical barriers between users. Mattresses should not be provided: people must use their own towels, and will have to book sunbeds in advance and pay by virtual methods. For hygiene purposes, each sunbed must be cleaned and disinfected before being used again.

Changing rooms closed, and one person at a time in toilets

The use of changing rooms and showers is not recommended, but if changing facilities are provided people must not use their showers. With regard to toilets, people must be able to go in and come out without using their hands and councils are advised to install automatic sensors on the taps. Only one person at a time may enter, unless with a child or someone who is dependent, and footwear must be worn at all times. Hydroalcoholic gels must be available at the entrance.

Special areas for jetskis, pedalos etc. : Continual disinfection and reservations only

If water sports of this type are permitted, liquid soap or hydroalcoholic gel must be available at all times for clients, who must disinfect their hands before using the equipment. In the same way as sunbeds, the facilities must be disinfected every time they are used and again at the end of the day, and must be deep-cleaned. It is recommended that bookings should be made in advance and paid by virtual means. With regard to whether pedalos or other equipment for hire can be used by more than one person, the Junta suggests that councils should follow the Health authority recommendations regarding groups.

First aid posts: One at a time and only the most urgent cases

The first aid posts must be disinfected with every change of shift. Their use is only recommended when strictly necessary, and only one person allowed in at a time, except with children or dependents.

Shower at home and don’t stay on the beach more than four hours

If you have any symptoms, stay at home. Otherwise, shower before going to the beach and when you get home, use one towel per person, don’t share objects with people outside the family group, try to stay no longer than four hours to avoid crowding and, above all, behave responsibly.