While it may be some time before we return to France, it’s heartening to see that beaches on the Riviera have already begun a staged reopening that began over the weekend.
Statistically speaking, the PACA region (Provence-Alpes-Côtes-d’Azur) has a population roughly equivalent to that of the Republic of Ireland (5 million) in an area just under half the size. They have fared better under the Coronavirus Pandemic, with 848 deaths out of 16,385 cases (In Ireland, on the same date, we have had 1,547 deaths out of 24,200 confirmed cases).
The beaches at Antibes (such as La Gravette pictured above), Cannes and Menton were amongst the first to allow people to dip their toes in the waters of Mediterranean once again starting this Monday, the 18th of May 2020, even though the weather has turned suddenly stormy. Lounging on the beach or gathering in groups is still strictly forbidden, however: the Plage Dynamique concept applies, with the beach for use only as access to the water to carry out some sporting activity therein.
The food markets have already re-opened over the last couple of weeks – albeit with strict conditions involving ‘no-touch’ policy, social distancing, large perspex screens between customers and vendors and the obligatory wearing of masks. Now, it’s the turn of the beaches to get involved in the journey back to normality in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
According to a statement from the French Minister of the Interior ten days ago in the run-up to the May 11th reopening, “the principle remains keeping the beaches closed, but local authorities will be able to issue derogations to that general order based on presentations by mayors of a regulation that provides guarantees of usage that would be compatible with public health directives.”
In other words, any mairies (town halls) that got ahead of the game and put in a comprehensive plan that would allow them to re-open their beaches while adhering to general social-distancing guidelines now find themselves in a position to see their beaches once more criss-crossed by the patter of bare feet as the sun is beginning to warm the shores of the Riviera. At this point, most of the beaches in 40 or so communes along the coast from St Cyr to Menton are now open with restrictions applying.
Some towns have held back from asking for a derogation to allow the beaches to open just yet. Such is the case in Eze, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where mayor Roger Roux said that he “won’t be asking for a derogation from the start of this period of de-confinement. What is of premium importance that supersedes the pleasure of dipping one’s toes in the water is that of health security… we need to map out our way first in order to properly prepare for the summer season.”