SAFETY is being added to the traditional three "S"s of "sun, sea and sand" this summer as Spanish beach resorts scramble to prove that they offer a minimal risk of coronavirus contagion.
Lloret de Mar, a classic Costa Brava bucket-and-spade resort, is trying to get ahead of the curve with a plan to segregate bathers in order to keep different risk groups apart during a summer unlike any other witnessed by the resort. Families with children and elderly people are different groups that will be separated.
A third segregated beach zone will be reserved for lone adults and couples, with more than 30 security personnel to be hired to ensure the rules are obeyed.
Jaume Dulsat, mayor of Lloret de Mar, said the resort usually welcomes more than a million tourists a year, of whom three quarters are foreigners -many of them British - but major doubts hang over the outcome of this season.
"We're hoping there will be international travel and tourism this summer," he said.
"We've no idea to what extent that will happen, but we're doing everything we can to prepare to look after our visitors in the best possible way."
Mr Dulsat added: "To say the resort has a zero risk of Covid-19 is not possible, but we can offer this sense that we are doing the right things so people feel safe."
With foreign travellers to Spain subject to a two-week quarantine from Friday for the foreseeable future, Spanish tour operators remain pessimistic about the international tourism trade this summer. The flip side is that Spaniards are also likely to be largely confined to their homeland for their summer holidays and will be heading to the beach.
For a self-confessed beach addict like Jordi Menendez, a Barcelona native who lives with his family in Madrid, the idea of a summer without feeling the sand between his toes is a serious concern.
"There is no substitute for the beach, with heat, sand and saltiness. It's a complete liberation," the 43-year-old said. "As well as the fun on the beach, it's social: sometimes my whole family meets at a beach bar in Catalonia and we all have a great time."
Reassurance for families that summer bathing can be a safe activity came from Spain's CSIC national research council, which has found that the sea and chlorinated swimming pool water kill the Covid-19 virus.
The CSIC states that there is no scientific evidence that the virus can survive in salt water for a period of time and that the salt acts as an "effective biocide".
But some rules may put a damper on the usual fun-fest of a costa holiday.
These include social distancing of at least two metres between beachgoers and no common play areas for children.
"We are looking for imaginative formulas that allow us to respect social distancing and enjoy bathing at the beach with maximum safety," said Juanma Moreno, Andalusia's president.
Beach capacity will be reduced by as much as 60 per cent in Andalusia. On the Costa del Sol, Fuengirola is planning to use AI to prevent overcrowding, with lamp-post sensors measuring the density of beachgoers, while Salou, near Tarragona, is drawing up time slots for different groups to protect the elderly and vulnerable from contagion.
The Telegraph, London