Durban beachgoers not social distancing over Easter weekend
Durban - Thousands have flocked to the city's beaches since the beginning of the long weekend, but maintaining social distancing has proven a hard task for bathers.
Lifeguards and metro police officers have been working hand in hand to ensure beach visits don’t run the risk of becoming super spreader events.
There were 25 law enforcement officers, 170 lifeguards, 18 safety protection officers and 34 beach guards deployed to the South, Central, Bluff and North beaches to ensure safety.
Since Friday lifeguards and metro police officers have been working between 6am and 6pm, while security and beach cleaning services are available all hours of each day. Toilets are open to the public between 6am and 8pm and are sanitised every three hours to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
Helen Herbert, manager at Lifesaving South Africa, emphasised that the main challenge faced by lifesaving clubs in the province was the lack of consideration for safety protocols, social distancing and the wearing of masks.
Herbert said the national non profit entity had over 7 000 members and 89 clubs across the country, with 60 of those being on the coastline.
She explained that it was not the responsibility of lifeguards to police the public on social distancing measures, but that they were on the beach for the safety of the public in the water.
“We do not wish the lifeguards to be distracted by the responsibility of the metro police. The safety at the beaches is the responsibility of each user. Members of the public must adhere to the social distancing and sanitizing guidelines.
“We believe metro police will be present on the beachfront and will be monitoring the situation,” she said.
Bambi Lewin, a lifeguard from the Marine Surf Lifesaving Club, stationed at Addington Beach, said four squad members would be on duty at a time throughout the long weekend. Two will be at the top of their tower, while the others monitor below.
Lewin said since the opening of the beach to the public, ensuring social distancing had proven difficult but they relied on the beachfront law enforcement whenever problems arose.
“We have a radio that is in constant contact with law enforcement. When you try and start moving people they are not always happy and you don’t want to be confrontational and end up getting into a squabble, we let the law enforcement officers do that.
“We are lifeguards, we save lives, we don’t enforce the law,” she said.
Mike Rodda, Umhlanga Rocks Lifesaving Club captain, said so far there had not been any major issues as beachgoers had been well behaved since the beginning of the Easter weekend. However, most visitors forget about social distancing protocols as soon as they get into the water, he said.
“It’s difficult because you have a specific bathing area and everybody wants to be in the water. We are doing our best to keep the crowds under control. It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.
Parboo Sewpersad, Metro Police spokesperson said people had come out in their numbers to enjoy the beaches since Friday, but that no one had been arrested.
“People have to remember to wear their masks in public. No consumption of alcohol or cooler bags are allowed on any of our beaches.”