One lifeguards is saying the lives of 115 lifeguards at ten major beaches throughout T&T are at risk since the reopening of the beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic as they have not been provided with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).
He said there is a lack of protocol on how to handle contact lifeguard saving as the public health ordinance still stands in terms of social distancing and the testing of people rescued from the rough waters.
Speaking with the Guardian Media, lifeguard for 35 years and union representative, Augustus Sylvester said the reopening of the beaches came suddenly to them as there was no consultation. Sylvester said that, as it stands, the first weekend since the announcement of the reopening by prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, the beaches have been overcrowded and there are “no police officers on-site to ensure that people who are not in the water are wearing their face masks.”
“And we are not the ones will do so because in the past we have been assaulted by members of the public when we advise them or tell them things to benefit their safety and the others around so it is the police’s job and just last week Thursday, we had a meeting and we have made a request for police to do patrols but we are not seeing them,” Sylvester said.
He added that when the beaches were closed police officers were quite present and conducting patrols.
Sylvester disclosed that last Tuesday, two lifeguards had to rescue three people from the waters, “There was contact and up to now nobody have been tested or examined so those lifeguards are at risk and these are things we put out there to the Ministry of National Security and we were told that they would have to consult the Ministry of Health on it and no word has come back to us on how to handle this.”
Sylvester said he intends to seek another meeting with the permanent secretary in the ministry of National Security this week, “because we are meeting with lower officers who cannot make decisions. I will pursue with this matter this week because the lifeguards are at risk because there’s nothing in place.”
One of the basic PPE asked for, according to Sylvester, were face shields, “we cannot share face shields because it is like a toothbrush and this is just one of the basics we need and we need plenty of.”
Sylvester urged beachgoers to wear their masks while at the beaches because the beaches “are a public place.”
“If you are not a strong swimmer do not go in the water past waist height because we have rough waters for the next few months and the rip currents are very strong. Also, children must be supervised and at arm’s length while in the water. You cannot have your children in the water and you on the shore on your cellphone or tablets. You must be in the water with them at arm’s length so that you can hold on to them should they end up in any difficulty,” Sylvester said.