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Stick to the rules or beaches will be closed, Garcia says

If people try to use Gibraltar’s beaches without heeding the lockdown restrictions, the Royal Gibraltar Police may intervene and close them, the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia warned on Wednesday.

This comes as hundreds of people continued to flock to the beach to enjoy the good weather despite “very clear” rules put in place to limit their use to just exercise and short swims.

Assessing the situation on the ground is not easy because the advice is to limit beach excursions to no more than 30 minutes, enough for a paddle or a quick swim.

The idea is to ensure a turnover of people that will allow everyone to have access while limiting the risk of close contact that could spread the virus.

While beaches appeared busy yesterday, most people were adhering to the rules. Others, however, were clearly not, presenting the authorities with a challenge.

Quizzed on this at the 4pm press conference, Dr Garcia said flouting social distancing rules exposed Gibraltar to the risk of a surge in Covid-19 cases and could lead to the RGP having to take the operational decision to close the beaches if it again became necessary.

The warning of greater enforcement also follows the removal of benches along Main Street after people began congregating around these too.

Dr Garcia therefore called for greater self-management from the community, highlighting the “fantastic job” the RGP and other law enforcement agencies were doing in these areas.

“There’s only so much the Government can do,” Dr Garcia said, adding that advice to those using the beaches was “very clear”, permitting a 30-minute stay to swim and then leave.

“By and large, people have been compliant. When they haven’t, or when the situation became particularly difficult because there were too many people present on the beaches, beaches were closed, and that is the risk that we’re taking if we don’t follow the rules.”

Dr Garcia added: “The 2020 beach season will sadly be unlike anything we have ever known.”

“You can go to the beach to exercise, this means to walk, to run or to swim.”

“We cannot allow beaches to become crowded, the virus would thrive in that environment.”

“So you have 30 minutes during which to swim and then go home. This means: no deckchairs, no umbrellas, no inflatable boats, no sunbathing and no picnic hampers.”

“You must maintain your social distance and stick to your own household. So, no barbecues, no beach parties, no breakfast, lunch and dinner at the beach.”

“This summer season will be tough. We know that it is a hard sacrifice to ask of you.”

“We are called upon to change decades of tradition, to switch to a different way of doing things, to adjust our Gibraltarian way of life.”

“But as we do so, we cannot lose sight of the wider picture. That is the need to protect our people,
to protect you and to protect our country.”

“So in short, you arrive, you swim, get dry and go home. In this way, everyone can have their turn.”

“The situation may change, but this is the blunt message for now.”

“And remember. The RGP and other bodies are there to help. They too enjoy the beach and they too have families in the same predicament.”

“Listen to them and act on their instructions. Cheating creates a risk because you will only be cheating yourself. You or your family could catch the virus next.”

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