Public divided over reopening of beaches

One of Antigua's many beaches (Photo courtesy Culture Trip)
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By Carlena Knight

Beaches are set to reopen to the public on Tuesday after more than a month of being off limits – but residents are divided on the decision.

Many are set to flock to favourites including Fort James, Runaway and Long Bay which will be open between 6am and 6pm from May 5, on weekdays only and for a “therapeutic purpose”. Picnics, the consumption of food and alcohol, and music is prohibited, along with all types of social events, in line with ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions.

Several people urged the public to be responsible and stick to safety measures when heading to the coast.

“It’s a good move. Sun and salt water, something the virus can’t survive. Limit gatherings,” said one. “It is so much better at the supermarkets; now all we need to do as adults is to act responsibly. Wear masks around people and practice distancing and no gatherings. People need this for mental healing. Just an hour is good enough.”

Another said, “If people practice social distancing, it should be fine. Space out; if the beach has too many people, go to another or at another time. We have 365 beaches. Use common sense.”

One more stated, “I think it’s great so long as persons adhere to the conditions set out. No tourists on beaches so no reason for them to be overcrowded. The benefits of swimming and water exercise is invaluable.”

Some members of the public however have aired their disapproval, saying the decision is premature.

“A potential disaster if not managed well,” said one.

“How is beach going [to be] therapeutic to coronavirus and how is salt water therapeutic to the present public health crisis?

“Solid provisions like large-scale testing should be made available for both symptomatic and asymptomatic [persons] before exposing the population to this. The second wave of a virus is always worse than the beginning. History speaks for itself,” he added.

Another said, “Putting aside all the benefits of sea water, we are not out of the woods by far. People don’t seem to want to adhere to guidelines about anything. They should keep the beaches closed until we are free and clear of this danger.”

A few other individuals proclaimed their frustration with the strict 6am to 6pm Monday to Friday timeframe. In addition to weekends, the beaches will also remain closed on public holidays for the time being.

“Many of us have to work during the weekday and won’t have much time to take a dip,” said one.

Other beaches cited as those residents are longing to return to included Darkwood, Jolly Beach, Hawksbill and Hideaway Bay.

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