'Totally Absurd': Spanish Officials Douse Beach With Bleach to Fight Coronavirus

Zahara de los Atunes.
Zahara de los Atunes.
Image: Killeando/Wikimedia

A picturesque beach in the Spanish province of Cádiz has been sprayed with diluted bleach, in a misguided and environmentally unfriendly attempt to protect children from the novel coronavirus.

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“It’s totally absurd,” María Dolores Iglesias Benítez, head of a local environmental volunteer group, told the Guardian. “The beach is a living ecosystem. And when you spray it down with bleach, you’re killing everything you come across.”

The beach, Zahara de los Atunes, was doused in bleach last week in preparation for an easing of lockdown measures brought on by the covid-19 pandemic. Speaking to the BBC, local official Agustín Conejo said the decision to spray the beach with the powerful disinfectant was “a wrong move” and a “mistake,” but that it was “done with the best intention” to protect children.

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The novel coronavirus has hit Spain very badly. The country has reported 24,275 deaths and more than 230,000 confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. Spain has implemented some of the toughest social distancing measures in the world, but it has announced a four-phase plan to ease restrictions in the coming weeks and months after appearing to bend the curve of confirmed cases over the past month. Among these measures is a stipulation allowing children under the age of 14 to go outside each day for an hour, after having spent weeks indoors.

In preparation for this, however, Spanish officials sanctioned spraying disinfecting chemicals onto streets, buildings, railway stations, and cars in an attempt to cleanse the environment of the virus. Spain has even resorted to using snow cannons normally used to pepper the slopes with snow to spread disinfectants.

Sadly, however, the BBC said officials in Cádiz province approved the spraying of a 2-kilometer (1.2 mile) stretch of Zahara de los Atunes. Tractors equipped with sprayers distributed the diluted bleach last week, which has resulted in ecological damage.

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Speaking to Spanish media, and as reported in the BBC, Iglesias Benítez, who visited the beach in person, said the bleach “killed everything on the ground, nothing is seen, not even insects.” She said the spraying should never have happened given that the beach is a protected area for migratory birds, and she saw at least one damaged nest with eggs destroyed by the tractors. The beach is renown for being a popular migratory nesting spot as it sits along the Strait of Gibraltar separating Europe and Africa.

The incident also got the attention of Greenpeace Spain.

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Writing in a recent tweet, the environmental group said: “Fumigating beaches with bleach in the middle of bird-breeding season or during the development of the invertebrate network that will support coastal fishing and destroy the touristic value of the coastline is not one of [Donald] Trump’s ideas. It is happening in Zahara de los Atunes.”

The Trump reference of course, had to do with the president’s recent remarks, or musings, about using disinfectants as medicine to ward off the coronavirus. There’s been no word yet on punitive measures for those responsible, but the regional government in Andalucía is reportedly investigating the incident.

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George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

manicotti
Manic Otti

“Fumigating beaches with bleach in the middle of bird-breeding season or during the development of the invertebrate network that will support coastal fishing and destroy the touristic value of the coastline is not one of [Donald] Trump’s ideas.”

No, but it sounds like one and I’m surprised he didn’t think of it first.