After months of being stuck at home thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, sunbathers have begun returning to beaches in popular tourism spots like Greece and France. New protocols have been been put in place, and those visiting the beaches are required to respect social distancing rules, now that restrictions are easing in parts of Europe.

Women walking on Ostia beach in Italy
People have returned to Ostia beach in Italy © Elisabetta A. Villa/Getty Images

More than 500 beaches recently re-opened in Greece. Government regulations set out that a four-metre distance that must be kept between umbrella poles, with canopies no closer than one metre, and no more than 40 people are permitted per 1000 square metres of space.

Getting the balance right between protecting people from COVID-19 and opening the country to visitors again is crucial for Greece, as tourism generates about a fifth of its economic output.

Canteras beach in Gran Canaria Spain
Beaches across Europe are slowly re-opening © Getty Images/iStockphoto

When it comes to French beaches, the rules were very different. Beaches in the north of France and along the Mediterranean coast re-opened to people living in what are called the green zones, where infections are low. People are permitted to swim, fish and surf, provided social distancing is implemented, but are forbidden from sunbathing or lounging on a beach for hours.

Sunloungers and parasols on a beach
Umbrellas and sunchairs must be adequately spaced © Neil Setchfield/Lonely Planet

Most beaches throughout Italy currently remain closed, and regional and local officials will decide when to open them. When they do, umbrellas have to be placed 4.5 metres apart, showers and bars must be sanitised, and disinfecting gel must be provided in busy areas. Technology is playing a part in Jesolo, where parasols are operated by via remote control, lockers and restrooms are opened by electronic bracelets, and bathrooms self-disinfect. Tourism represents 15% of jobs in Italy, so managing beach businesses properly going forward is hugely important.

Lockdowns are easing globally as the planet adjusts to a new normal. Find out how COVID-19 is changing travel.

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