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Scientists test virus effects on sand, sea and pool water
05 May 2020 @ 15:50


RESTARTING Spain's usually successful and buoyant tourism industry is high on everyone's priority list, given its massive contribution to the national economy, and the fact that residents at home and abroad want to know whether their holidays will be affected – so authorities have started investigating ahead of summer to find out how soon normality can return, and what, if any, extra safety measures need to be taken.

Spain's National Research Council (CSIC) has been commissioned by the secretary of State for tourism and the Spanish Tourism Quality Institute (ICTE) to test sea and swimming pool water and sand to find out whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive in them, and if so, for how long.

This is 'an issue about which there is hardly any evidence worldwide', says the ICTE, and yet full scientific knowledge of it is going to be essential before deciding whether Spain's sun, sea and sand tourism can go ahead.

For city-break and rural tourism, social distancing, masks and gloves, disinfecting and hand sanitiser dispensers are the country's main weapons against another Covid-19 outbreak, but it is not clear how the virus interacts with its environment in indoor and outdoor swimming pools or on beaches – such as whether it can be transmitted by a person touching or lying in the same patch of sand as a previous person who is a carrier.

If areas have to be disinfected before and after – difficult when it comes to sand and sea – the ICTE wants to know what effects doing so will have on the ecosystem.

Should evidence show the need for disinfecting, and that this will harm the natural environment, it could put beach visits in jeopardy this summer.

For the moment, the ICTE has urged local authorities not to take any action of this nature until it is able to release full reports and recommendations.

And until the data are complete, verified and available, the ICTE discourages coastal authorities or town councils from buying any equipment or making hefty investments in case the technical specifications for safety measures change at the last minute.

Procedures will be drawn up for 21 different tourism sub-sectors – although some of these have already been working on their own with a view to hitting the ground running once they are able to reopen.



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