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Horta ,  June 05, 2020

Regional Government publishes handbook on use and management of bathing areas in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Regional Government, through the Regional Directorate for Sea Affairs, has published the handbook on the use and management of bathing areas in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is aimed not only at managing entities but also at the users of these areas.
This document, which contains temporary and exceptional measures, aims to define good practices and guidelines for the use of the Region's bathing areas during the summer season, while minimising the risk of the pandemic spreading and contributing to the safe use of these areas. 

Although there is no scientific evidence to conclude that SARS CoV 2, which causes the COCID-19 disease, survives in seawater, sand or rocky surfaces, it was considered necessary to adopt preventive measures. 

Besides the general health measures for the control of the COVID-19 disease, defined by the Health Authority, the guidelines stipulate a minimum physical safety distances, which is set at three metres between parasols and at 1.5 metres between users, except among people belonging to the same group. 

Physical distancing shall be maintained whenever there is movement of people through the bathing area, even when users are in the water. 

In areas for bathing use, sports activities or others involving contact and proximity between two or more persons are not allowed. 

The handbook recommends that, whenever possible, access corridors to the bathing area and to changing rooms/sanitary areas should be defined in accordance with the area available and the conditions of each bathing area. 

The rules for cleaning and sanitation procedures set out for establishments in non-bathing areas should be also applied to beach facilities, bars, restaurants and outdoor cafes, according to the guidelines issued by the Health Authority. Additionally, these establishment are required to have contingency plans. 

Managing entities can provide information on the occupancy level of the bathing area, for example, through colour-based system or digital platforms, such as APA's "Info Praia" (Info Beach), among others.
The Regional Director for Sea Affairs, Filipe Porteiro, considered that the handbook represents an important working tool for the entities managing bathing areas as it will contribute to the adoption of measures for the safe use of bathing areas.
Moreover, the document also defines the rules and guidelines with regard to the access to these areas, namely in terms of parking and pedestrian access. 

The use of confined bathing waters, such as swimming pools, whose water renewal is somewhat conditioned, should be assessed by the Municipal Health Delegate in conjunction with the managing entity, before the beginning of the bathing season.
In case of an unfavourable opinion by the health authority, the management entities shall adopt measures to prevent the use of the swimming pools in question. 

In the event that there are no limitations for the use of these infrastructures, the same rules defined for the other bathing areas in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic shall apply. 

Management entities may also choose not to open artificial swimming pools under their management. 

The Regional Directorate for Sea Affairs will increase the frequency of tests conducted under annual bathing water quality monitoring programme in the Azores and will implement the monitoring of sand quality on nine Azorean beaches during the months of June, July and August. 

The Azores have 75 approved bathing waters for this year on the nine islands of the archipelago, five more than last year. 

The bathing season varies from area to area, the longest being on the Vila Franca do Campo Islet, São Miguel Island, which only ends on October 14. 

Under the international Blue Flag programme, a record number of award-winning coastal bathing areas achieved in the Azores this year, with 42 Blue Flags, three more than in 2019. 

The handbook on the use and management of bathing areas in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic was developed by the Regional Directorate of Sea Affairs in close collaboration with the Regional Directorate for Health and the National Maritime Authority. It also included the opinions of the managing bodies of bathing areas in the Azores, namely municipalities, the Vila Franca do Campo Nautical Club and the Regional Port Authorities. 

The handbook is available on the Regional Directorate for Sea Affairs website at


Official government press-releases presented in all foreign languages interfaces of the Azorean Government Portal (Portal do Governo dos Açores) are a sub-set of the government's official press-releases daily output and are chosen for translation and publication on the foreign language interfaces based on audience segmentation criteria. The entire collection of the Azorean government press-releases is available in portuguese, here, from the GACS Press Office site.

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