Covid rules: Lifeguards told “try saving lives without entering the water”

Lifeguards have been surprised by new ‘rules’ today brought in as a result of the pandemic which “privilege the saving of lives without entering the water”.

This year’s advice adds that if entering the water ends up being necessary, lifeguards should “try approaching the victim backwards”.

Says Lusa, the Portuguese Lifeguard Federation has published this Covid-led set of recommendations ahead of the release of any international advice.

In other words, this is Portugal’s interpretation of how to save lives without the risk of spreading the virus.

Said federation president Alexandre Tadeia, the new advice involves “very technical issues” (like ‘trying to effect rescues from the safety of the seashore’).

“If lifeguards really have to go into the water due to the situation, they should use equipment that keeps them at a distance from the person in difficulties – such as a torpedo buoy or rescue belt, both of which have a two-meter cable”, he explained.

If the ‘person in difficulties’ is in so much difficulty that they are already unconscious, Tadeia says lifeguards nonetheless should try their approach ‘backwards’, in order never to be in a situation where they ‘save’ someone face-to-face.

“While the first lifeguard is effecting the rescue, the second – who is out of the water – must be equipped with all the PPE (personal protective equipment of gloves, mask and visor), as it will be this lifeguard that transports the person, always backwards, and concludes the rescue”, he added.

Possibly unaware that the advice has been shared over social media with multiple laughing emojis, Alexandre Tadeia stressed it has been drawn-up to avoid the need for lifeguards wearing masks in the water, “because it is not possible (to wear masks in the water). There aren’t masks for this situation”, he said.

Likewise, when watching over beaches, patrolling and/ or giving advice to beachgoers – as long as they keep the required physical distance – lifeguards won’t have to wear masks.

Tadeia added that two days from the official start of the bathing season, the federation is still unclear whether it will have enough lifeguards this year anyway.

“We not sure”, he told Lusa. “Only with the opening of the season will we be able to have this notion”.

The trouble with this pandemic year is that training courses were unable to go ahead as swimming pools were closed during the State of Emergency. 

Lifeguards from previous years do not always return to this strictly summer job, and this year’s challenging new set of ‘rules’ may put some off.

Since April, the federation has been sounding alerts – suggesting the country could be short of as many as 2000 lifeguards this summer. 

In the meantime, various beaches have already seen a number of drownings.

Put another way, the looming bathing season is rife with unknowns.

The Resident has quizzed one lifeguard as he prepares for this very different season. How does he feel about rescuing people backwards, or shouting instructions from the seashore as bathers disappear underwater?

“The federation can come up with whatever new rules they like”, he told us. “If I see someone in trouble in the water, I am going in to get them. End of story”.