Public beaches should be that much safer from Tuesday after long-standing demands by lifeguards to increase the hours beaches are monitored were finally met on Monday.
In most cases, the time will be extended by two hours, meaning that lifeguards will be working from 9am to 7pm instead of until 5pm. In some cases, which will be determined by local authorities, the beaches will have a lifeguard from 8am until 8pm.
The changes were decided at a meeting of the interior ministry with all the stakeholders on Monday and followed three drownings in the space of just one week last month.
One of the drownings took place just after the lifeguard had left for the day. The other took place on Governor’s beach where a lifeguard is not on duty in June.
“Recently the issue on how efficiently we cover our beaches with the necessary personnel has come up,” Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said after the meeting, “the subject of the working schedule was also raised in order to minimise the loss of life, and whether the state can contribute more.”
The interior ministry shares the budget for lifeguards on public beaches with local authorities.
He said that as a first measure surveillance hours will be increased from Tuesday.
In some cases, for example in Limassol, instructions were given to recruit more people to cover the extra hours and to increase the number of months the beaches are supervised.
Hoteliers will also be invited to discuss what their contribution could be, though this does not affect the interior ministry’s decision to change the timetable from Tuesday, Hasikos explained.
A working group has been set up to look at issues in more detail so that a more comprehensive plan can be implemented from next March.
“Maybe the working group will decide that we must go even further. It is something that we will look at with everyone involved. From March to November, there must be full coverage,” the minister said.
He added that some money has also been released to buy necessary equipment.
Hasiko said around 20 extra lifeguards needed to be recruited, but the working group would provide a better picture by next season.
President of the lifeguard association Polis Pallikaros expressed his satisfaction with the new arrangements. He also mentioned that the interior ministry had given permission to local authorities to hire people for areas which currently do not have a lifeguard.
“I want to remind you of the incident in Governor’s beach, where someone drowned at 5pm when we did not have a lifeguard there because the decision was to hire lifeguards only for July and August, and I also want to remind you of the incident which took place at 5.19pm in Ayios Tychonas while our lifeguard left at 5pm,” he said. “All these (problems) will no longer exist after the decision taken today. We believe we will have more secure beaches in the coming summer months.”