Towards more general reopening of beaches
THE EDITOR: In a previous letter I made a case for reopening a few beaches in a controlled way, ie, access is controlled and all staff and visitors have been vaccinated. Herd immunity is achieved as the vaccination rate is 100 per cent. The good point is the safety and the waiting; we need not wait for general herd population immunity.
So how about herd immunity and a more general reopening of beaches? Herd immunity depends on a factor called R0, ie, if one person gets infected how many other people get the virus? If R0 is 3, herd immunity is at 2/3 of the population. If R0 is 4, it stands at 3/4 of the population. These are the figures we count on now. The delta variant now spreading in the UK has a R0 of 6. That is what keeps the government awake at night. You need over 83 per cent vaccinated people to control that. And future strains might be even more contagious so herd immunity is elusive.
But I do not wish to delve into fearmongering. Suppose we have a R0 at 3 and we have a goal to vaccinate 68 per cent of the population, then we can reopen the beaches, right?
Well first you are not going to get there overnight. You have to procure the vaccines and distribute them and that takes time. But suppose you reach 68 per cent, what then?
Having a 68 per cent vaccinated population does not mean every subset of the population is 68 per cent vaccinated. Look at elections as an example. If a party has 68 per cent support nationally it does not mean every district voted 68 per cent for the party.
Even if by chance a beach has 68 per cent vaccinated people it does not mean they are evenly distributed. Thus some physical distancing is essential. And if people cluster in the parking area for a little lime, that can be a problem too. So drinking alcohol and loud music off the beach should not be permitted.
Individual activities are generally problem-free. Surfing, paddleboarding, windsurfing and kitesurfing are individual in nature, open-air and the risk of contagion is almost zero. A lot safer virus-wise than a shopping trip to the supermarket.
Weekends and periods of high affluence are best avoided. And if you do not wish to overburden the police, only a few beaches should open at designated times with careful physical distancing.
But that kind of reopening is only further into the future. For the time being fully vaccinated spaces are more readily implementable and sustainable. Finally, you have to consider the general cost to businesses of booking reservations and then cancelling because of another shutdown. That is better avoided.
Still wishing for a day on the water.
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