UPDATE: Swimming ban lifted as ‘red tide’ starts to dissipate

A swimming ban that had been in place between Faro and Vilamoura since Monday due to microalgae that had turned the sea red has been lifted by the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA).

Tests detected the presence of ‘toxins’ in the water but thus far no intoxication incidents have been reported, says a statement on APA’s website.

The ‘red tide’ has also started to dissipate, leading APA to inform maritime authorities in the Algarve on Wednesday that the swimming ban could be lifted.

The microalgae were first detected on Sunday by APA. Due to the agency’s concerns about their potential risks to health, the National Maritime Authority (AMN) placed a swimming ban on all beaches between Ilha de Faro and Praia da Rocha Baixinha.

Although there are no known cases of people being poisoned by these kinds of toxins, Rita Domingues, a researcher from the University of the Algarve, has told Observador newspaper that tests previously carried out in laboratories have confirmed that the toxins could be harmful to humans if swallowed but not when in contact with skin.

Eating shellfish captured in affected waters, however, is considered the biggest hazard as they “accumulate a large amount of toxins produced by the microalgae”, which is why IPMA has banned the capture of bivalve shellfish between Olhão and Lagos.

Nonetheless, APA continues to advise against swimming in areas where the microalgae are still visible, especially children and “vulnerable groups”.

The impact of the swimming ban was actually not significant as the recent rainy weather kept beachgoers away, however, with the weather set to improve over the coming days, Wednesday’s news is certainly good.

Temperatures are set to reach the 30ºC mark in the Algarve and clear blue skies are expected between Friday and Sunday, which will surely attract many to the region’s beaches.

In fact, Algarve tourism boss João Fernandes had said that the local tourism board was following the situation closely and that he was in contact with tour operators and members of international press to avoid “unjustified concerns”.

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