Beachgoers in Rio de Janeiro will need to reserve spot on the sand via app

The move is part of new measures introduced to stem the spread of the coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: People enjoy Ipanema beach, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 9, 2020. REUTERS/Ian Cheibub/File Photo
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People heading to the beach in Rio de Janeiro will now be required to reserve a spot on the sand via an app.

The new measures were announced on Monday by the city's mayor as part of social distancing rules put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Officials had initially said that the city’s beaches could only reopen once a vaccine had been found, but Mayor Marcelo Crivella said on Monday that Rio's world-famous beaches could reopen with clearly demarcated areas to keep people apart.

However, implementing the measure could prove difficult in a city where the sand has already been packed in recent weeks despite the threat of a 107-real (Dh72) fine.

epa08596378 An aerial image made with a drone of Recreio beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 10 August 2020. In Rio de Janeiro, the most emblematic city in Brazil, Cariocas and tourists who wish to sunbathe on the beaches will have to reserve their space through a mobile application, Mayor Marcelo Crivella announced on 10 August. According to the Mayor, details on how the reservation system will work will be announced towards the weekend and in the meantime he asked people not to crowd on the beaches.  EPA/Antonio Lacerda
An aerial image, taken with a drone, of Recreio Beach in Rio de Janeiro. EPA

"People will be able to remain in demarcated areas, based on the time they arrive and also by reserving via an app," Crivella said during a news conference.

"That way, we can better organise something that's not working well today."

Rio authorities closed beaches in March to fight the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 100,000 people in Brazil, the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the US.

Rio governor Wilson Witzel admitted at the time that the measure amounted to "heresy" in a place known for its love of the beach.

With more than 14,000 deaths, Rio state has been hit harder by the virus than any other in Brazil except for Sao Paulo.

On July 31, Crivella reopened the Rio oceanfront for swimming, but sitting on the sand was still off limits.

Despite that, throngs of people have crowded famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema at weekends recently, soaking up the sun, playing football on the sand and admiring the green mountains lining the turquoise water.

Crivella did not set a date for the reopening, saying officials would give more details soon.

Other beach destinations have also experimented with technology to reopen.

Spain is using drones, Belgium is using sensors and smartphone location trackers, and various places are asking beachgoers to reserve via websites or booking apps.

On July 29, Brazil reopened to foreign visitors arriving by plane after a four-month suspension, hoping to revive its lockdown-devastated tourism industry despite its struggles to contain the virus.