Lifeguard Federation warns of increasing drowning deaths

The number "is not normal" and is due to the "very serious problem" of people being able to go to the beach "without having assistance for bathers", which will only happen from 6 June

Lifeguards – Photo: Gonçalo Dourado | Sul Informação – file

The Portuguese Federation of Lifeguards informed that Portugal has registered, since the beginning of the year, 46 deaths from drowning, 18 more than in the same period last year, warning of the “very serious problem” of the beaches remaining unsupervised.

"So far, we have 46 drowning deaths in Portugal, when, in the same period last year, we had 28", said the president of the federation, Alexandre Tadeia, who I was already counting the two deaths that occurred yesterday in Prainha, an unsupervised beach, in Portimão.

According to the official, the number “is not normal” and is due to the “very serious problem” of people being able to go to the beach “without having assistance for bathers”, which will only happen from 6 June.

"The assumption would be to have fewer deaths than last year due to confinement," he said.

The alert was made yesterday afternoon after a meeting with the Working Group of the National Defense Commission, to make a "state of the matter" on the lack of lifeguards for the next bathing season.

“It was a bit of a review of the material given. We went to do the statistical situation and the presentation of all the proposals that we have been talking about recently”, indicated Alexandre Tadeia.

According to the president of the federation, these proposals include tax and social incentives for lifeguards, such as exemption from IRS, VAT, user fees or tuition fees, a special contracting regime or a change in safety devices, with a reduction in the number of guards.

In April, Alexandre Tadeia had already warned that there were about 1.500 to 2.000 lifeguards left for the next bathing season, because the courses were interrupted with the declaration of the state of emergency.

“The bathing season starts on the 6th and only after that do we know whether or not there is a shortage of lifeguards. Until then, we have the feeling and concern about the availability of professionals to work this summer, given the study we did. What we do know is that, if the pattern of the last bathing seasons is maintained, we will have shortages, because only half will return to work the following year and we cannot form the number that was supposed to be”, he declared.

Some lifeguard courses have already restarted in the “online component”, but Alexandre Tadeia criticized the fact that the pools are still closed, and it is not possible to finish the in-person part.

“When we have cafes and restaurants open, it's hard to understand how to keep indoor swimming pools confined, when there are much better conditions for distance and prevention from covid-19 than in any of these places. If the pools opened, we could reactivate the courses and, at least, increase the number of lifeguards”, he stressed.

At this meeting, Alexandre Tadeia also delivered a provisional document with "recommendations for safety measures for lifeguards".

“We still cannot give examples because it is a document that is being validated. We made a European collection, but we are awaiting a world orientation. If you don't arrive in time, we have this one ready to go. These are very technical recommendations for rescue in water and for transporting the castaway”, he added.

At Tuesday's meeting, there was no negotiation, but the leader remains expectant that the Ministry of Defense will implement some of the proposed measures.

“The commission showed great concern with the situation that we made and showed great interest in the proposals that we presented”, he added.