This is the plea and plight of the Surfing Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) and other athletes. Surfing requires wave conditions that in most cases would not be considered safe for the general public, and usually takes place at unsheltered secluded beach areas that are not frequented by your average “beachgoer”. Speaking with Guardian Media Sports, SATT President Jean-Paul Rostant said that I can only comment on the Sport of Surfing in particular and highlight the facts that by its very nature, the sport of surfing encourages social distancing. Athletes close to one another actually introduce unnecessary risks like collision and injuries and so the distance between surfers is somewhat of a prerequisite. Surfing also requires wave conditions that in most cases would not be considered safe for the general public and surfers prefer unsheltered secluded beach areas that are not frequented by members of the public.” Rostant went onto say Members of the surfing and water sports community have started raising awareness of the low risk associated with these activities via social media and have started using the hashtag #openthebeaches to gather support for the cause. The online petition, started by the past President of the association, Keith Lewis, who has garnered over 1,360 signatures so far on the website chang.org.
The petition calls for a responsible activity to allow the access of the ocean to surf, or swim/train, or snorkel and free-dive, kayak, stand-up-paddle, and similar and related activities that pose minimal to no possible transmission of COVID-19. SATT also pointed out that
other countries such as Barbados, the USA (California and Hawaii), Australia, Indonesia (Bali) and others have allowed people to participate in these activities.
On August 15, the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley announced the second rollback of measures to manage the community spread of COVID-19. The main focus was on getting people to understand what was needed for minimizing the risk of virus transmission. This included mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements with the legislation to allow for sweeping and broad enforcement. Public-gatherings were highlighted as high-risk, and so anything that could 'pull a crowd', from places of worship, contact sports and sports-crowds, to liming establishments and any kind of gathering to celebrate (parties) or commiserate (funerals), were swept up in the government's guidance that non-essential activities were too dangerous to be allowed. Beaches, Rivers, Streams, Ponds were closed.
Rostant an avid waterman requested that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Security consider a revision to the existing Public Health regulations allowing beach access for all watersport enthusiasts during the hours of 6-9 am Daily. This access would only be allowed considering certain limitations ie. prohibition of alcohol and any ancillary devices that would promote unsafe gatherings at the beaches during these hours eg coolers, umbrellas, chairs etc. Rostant mentioned that the association understands that Covid-19 is not going anywhere soon and they would just like to give their input as stakeholders during this difficult time.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that beaches and parks be utilized to improve health and wellness to reduce COVID-19 transmission and improve survival.
The WHO scientific risk assessment tool calculates the following as ‘Very Low’ risk for transmitting Covid19: Aqua therapy, Aqua jogging/exercises-training, Windsurfing, Surfing, Rowing, individual swimming, snorkelling, canoeing, free-dive, kayak, Stand-Up-Paddle, kite surfing, dingy sailing, sailing, beach jogging, beach gymnastics and similar non-contact, social distancing, personal/individual low impact activities that occur in the sunshine and open air.
These forms of exercises are encouraged by the WHO and the medical fraternity because many persons are comorbidities only allow them to exercise in a low impact aquatic medium and they help develop the cardiorespiratory, Immune systems, synthesize vitamin D and good health, which are the only proven protection against the covid19.
These activities have allowed many countries to control successfully overcome and control the covid19 spread.
They have a lower WHO risk assessment score than all the other activities being permitted in Trinidad and Tobago. (Golf, Tennis, alcohol consumption…)
We propose following be implemented urgently to avoid the worsening health/ comorbidities of the most vulnerable being caused by the current restrictions:
*Access to the beaches will be granted to members of the public between the hours of 6:00 AM-6:00 PM Daily to persons engaged in Health and wellness activities.
*While engaging in exercise and wellness activities on the beach, members of the public must follow social distancing guidelines as outlined by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).•
*Alcohol consumption, smoking, picnicking, music, fetes, gathering. liming and contact sports/ activities on beaches be strictly prohibited.
*Swimming lessons, Physical education and other school activities are encouraged at the beaches and parks to reduce school transmission of covid19.