Coronavirus beach safety: How to decrease risk of catching COVID-19 seaside

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Beaches are reopening around the world after being closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but the risk of COVID-19 by the shore remains.

With sand, sweat, and swarms of people, public beaches may seem like a breeding ground for the pandemic. But certain beach elements pose greater threats than others, according to medical experts.

Here is what research shows and experts say about preventing potential COVID-19 transmission at the beach:


There has not yet been research on whether the novel coronavirus, technically known as SARS-CoV-2, remains active in saltwater.

“It’s unclear if swimming at saltwater beaches elevates the risk of contracting COVID-19,” according to American nonprofit environmental organization the Surfrider Foundation.

However, it is possible that an infected person may release the virus into the water by submerging their face, said Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Arizona at Tucson, in an interview with NBC News.

Because of this possibility, it is best to keep social distancing even while swimming, Gerba recommended.


Sunbathing at the beach may increase perspiration, but it doesn’t necessarily increase the probability of coronavirus contagion.

COVID-19 transmission through sweat drops is not possible “as far as we know,” according to Dr. Arthur Reingold, division head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.

However, activities that produce sweat like group sports may increase the spread of COVID-19 due to close contact, which is why some cities like Miami, Florida, have banned beach games like volleyball.


The main risk of COVID-19 transmission at the beach is violating social distancing, Yale University epidemiologist Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood told Al Arabiya English.

The novel coronavirus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets related to coughing, sneezing, and speaking, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet),” said the CDC in a statement on its website.

People should try to avoid crowded beaches where they are unable to keep at least six feet between them and other people, recommends Dr. Christine Blackburn, deputy director of the Pandemic and Biosecurity Policy Program at Texas A&M University.

Walking the beaches rather than staying in one spot will “reduce risk because you are more able to control your distance from others,” Dr. Blackburn said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.


Dipping your toes in the sand isn’t cause for concern since sand is an “unlikely” source of COVID-19 transmission, according to Reingold.

Beach equipment

It is best to bring towels and other beach equipment from home, rather than using those that may be provided at the beach, according to Dr. Blackburn.

“Although the risk of transmission from something like a beach towel is unlikely, bringing everything from home will help reduce risks further,” she said.

For communal beach equipment like chairs and umbrellas, wiping them down with disinfectant wipes may help reduce COVID-19 transmission.

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