The severe shortage of lifeguards and lack of adequate infrastructure to protect beachgoers was discussed at the House interior committee on Monday, with MPs stressing that urgent remedial action is needed.
Citing a report prepared by the interior ministry, committee chair Eleni Mavrou (Akel) said that whereas Cypriot beaches need an estimated 300 lifeguards on duty, currently there are only 140.
The committee discussed two bills prepared by MP Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis (Disy, Famagusta district), one of which aims to recognise and regulate the lifeguard profession.
The bills were tabled because the government had taken too long in submitting its own legislation on the subject.
Mavrou said it was hoped that in the meanwhile the government would submit the accompanying regulations so that they can be passed by the House as soon as possible.
Lifeguards return to the beaches on April 1.
In addition to the absence of a law regulating the lifeguard profession, currently there are also no criteria in place relating to where lifeguards should be stationed or what gear they should use.
Hadjiyiannis’ bill also aims to regulate the operation of lifeguard academies and additionally oblige local authorities to draft an operational plan for each beach, in line with best international practices.
For his part, Greens MP George Perdikis said that according to data seen by MPs, the overwhelming majority of drowning incidents take place on beaches lacking a lifeguard service or during times outside normal lifeguard hours.
Last week, lifeguards threatened to go on strike unless the government responded to their demands for more staff, working conditions, and improvements to outdated equipment.
They claimed they were short-staffed and had to work 60-hour weeks.
In response, the interior ministry announced that it had already authorised hiring additional personnel and procurement of equipment.
At the same time, the ministry said, it was decided to extend the lifeguards’ timetable by two hours and grant them overtime pay. Additionally, local authorities could hire additional personnel whose pay would be covered by the state.