RESEARCHERS in Spain are analysing how coronavirus lives in sand and water in a bid to welcome British tourists as soon as possible.
The Institute for Spanish Tourism Quality (ICTE), which has been asked to commission the study by Spanish government tourism chiefs, says it will provide key information that will enable hotels and holiday resorts to open as quickly but as safely as possible.
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Costa beaches are not due to fully reopen until June 8 at the earliest and no date has been given for the possible return of the British and Irish tourists who have made Spain their favourite holiday destination.
The state research institution has now been given the task of determining how the virus works on the beaches and in the sea and swimming pools that are normally packed at this time of the year with foreign holidaymakers, to be able to disinfect them safely and quickly.
ICTE, who are also the entity in charge of the certification of the quality systems for tourist companies, said in a statement: “The study will enable us to better understand the behaviour of the virus in water in indoor and outdoor pools and whether it can be transmitted through sand and what happens in sea water.
“Once this information is available, protocols will have to be designed which will include looking at how the areas that have been occupied can be disinfected if the study concludes that is necessary.
“If it is necessary the disinfection will have to be done in a way that doesn’t affect the area eco-systems.”
ICTE president Miguel Mirones added in an interview on respected Spanish TV programme Espejo Publico yesterday/on Monday: “This information will be fundamental.
“I think the measures that are adopted should be a consequence of the result of this study.”
Research has indicated that other coronavirus strains such as SARS can survive 12 days in room temperature tap water.
But most experts agree that in large bodies of water like the sea and rivers, it would be difficult to contract it because the virus concentration would be so diluted.
Disease control experts have insisted the risk of Covid-19 transmission through water is “expected to be low” and there is no evidence it can occur.
The Spanish government wants to have a better scientific understanding of the situation with a view to getting the tourism industry back on track for the summer season in July.
Local tourists will be the first to enjoy the beaches and foreign tourism will depend on the number of flights available, but it is hoped Brits can start flocking back to Spain around October.
The re-opening of swimming pools, currently shut in hotels and Airbnb resorts, would give the tourist sector a much-needed boost.
Sea swimming is currently off-limits in Spain, except in some areas where local councils have permitted swimming where it is being practiced as a sport.
The study will also look at issues around social distancing on beaches.
Juanma Moreno, president of Spain’s Andalucia region which includes the Costa del Sol, has said it is likely police will have to limit access to the area’s beaches when they finally fully re-open.
Office-style plexiglass cubicles, first proposed by an Italian firm, have also been touted as a possible solution for holidaymakers dreaming of an early return to Mediterranean beaches.
Similar plastic boxes have already been trialled at restaurants in Madrid.
Questioned last Thursday about the return of tourists from other European countries, Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said her intention was that they “returned soon and with maximum safety guarantees, if the health and travel situation made it possible.”
Thousands of hotels and other tourist accommodation in Spain fear they won't be reopening again this year, despite permission to do so from May 11 as part of the country's de-escalation plan.
They say that without international holidaymakers, including the huge British market on which all the popular resorts depend, there is "no point" in spending money they haven't got.
The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations (CEHAT) president, Jorge Marichal said: "Tourist accommodation establishments such as hotels, apartments, resorts, hostels, camping sites, spas, which the Confederation represents, don't know how to proceed with this opening and it will not be viable either in the vast majority of hotel facilities."
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