Excited sun worshippers throughout the nation of Greece are anticipating, perhaps as they never have before, the official opening of beaches throughout the country on Saturday, May 16.
On Wednesday, the government received a plan from its Committee of Scientists to allow Greek beaches to open for the 2020 season, with large crowds expected everywhere along the Greek shoreline due to the ongoing heat wave.
As part of the plan, mayors of beach towns will be asked to guarantee that all the appropriate safety measures are enforced, to protect those on beaches from being exposed to COVID-19.
The government has sought to open all beaches, in a bid to prevent a crush of beachgoers seeking out a limited number of open beaches, which would have created more of a problem.
At the same time, many are wondering whether it is safe to return to the sand, rocky shorelines and water — at all — this Spring.
While there have been no instances of beachgoers contracting COVID-19 from the water —either salty seawater or fresh water — experts believe there is much more to be concerned about if large crowds gather together on beaches.
A recent article in Fodor’s Travel put it simply: “While the safety of the water at the beach is still a question, scientists do know that being near other people, including at a crowded beach, is the main way COVID-19 is spread. That’s why many public beaches are closing and why spring break partiers were labeled #CovIdiots.”
There have been many questions raised worldwide about whether COVID-19 could be transmitted through the water itself. Scientists think this unlikely, though it is possible if swimming near sewage-contaminated waters.
“I’d be more worried about hepatitis, swimming in raw sewage discharge, or many of the other pathogens. They present a far greater magnitude of risk, even if it turns out that coronavirus is transmitted by water,” according to Charles Gerba, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Arizona, as quoted on WebMd.com.
But what other dangers are posed by going to the beach this summer?
Experts point to the ease of picking up the virus from handrails on stairways shared by hundreds or thousands of beachgoers. The same holds true in public washrooms, where countertops are a likely source for contracting COVID-19.
An additional problem are the breezes at beaches. Being out in the fresh sea air may give people a false sense of security since any droplets in a sneeze or cough might travel farther than the mere two meters they do on a windless day.
Other recommendations include finding smaller, local beaches to enjoy, rather than heading to larger, more popular beaches, which attract very large crowds on hot days.
And ultimately, it is highly recommended that if those going to a beach find it crowded, they need to stop, remember the dangers posed by COVID-19, and then turn around and leave.