How will Sweden’s beaches deal with social distancing rules?

When the weather is good, people in Sweden tend to head to the country's long coastline to sunbathe and swim, and the beaches may be even more in demand if overseas travel is restricted this summer. But what will the rules be to reduce the spread of infection at Sweden's beaches and bathing spots?

How will Sweden's beaches deal with social distancing rules?
A lifeguard on a beach in central Malmö last summer. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

There are currently no official guidelines for beaches, but several municipalities in the south of Sweden are preparing their own measures aimed at preventing crowding around swimming spots.

With the prime minister and health authorities having repeatedly warned that overseas travel is unlikely this summer, many are instead turning their thoughts to a holiday within Sweden. 

“I want the beaches to continue being able to be open, but for them to be safe and for people to feel safe, so I think it's important to raise this question early,” Carina Wutzler, chairperson of the municipal council in Vellinge, told P4 Malmöhus.

Nearby Trelleborg plans to put up information signs, as well as employing staff to remind visitors to keep their distance, the radio station reported.

Current guidelines include avoiding all non-essential travel within Sweden, and keeping a distance from other people in public places. The 1177 healthcare service has asked people to stick to a distance of two metres as often as possible when outside the home.

The town of Båstad plans to invest in information campaigns and extra cleaning of public toilets, and may ask staff working at piers and beaches to take responsibility for controlling visitor numbers and social distancing.

“We will do a daily assessment to make sure it works,” the municipality's head of security Christofer Thorén told the TT newswire.

And in Ystad, the municipality is considering hiring young adults to remind visitors of the rules in place. 

The Skåne region's head of emergency preparedness Markus Björklund said that discussions were under way with the local municipalities on the topic of crowding at beaches.

“We have already seen that there have been several problems with outdoor seating [at bars and restaurants]. This is yet another situation and it's the same in our national parks. We need to keep a physical distance,” said Björklund. 

“Some discipline is required, for people to take this seriously and realise that just because you are at the beach, the virus is just as infectious.”

Asked if it might be necessary to close off beaches if crowding does occur, he said that the region was hoping people would respect the guidelines in place. “It's a public right we have [to access nature] and it's a public place, so it would be necessary to write new rules [if beaches were to be closed off],” Björklund said.

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