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Lockdown: Biarritz GP prescribes swims in sea, police say no

Pensioners frustrated at lockdown ruling that prevents them taking a dip for health reasons

7 November 2020
The beaches at Biarritz, in the southwest of France, are popular with swimmers and bathers
By Connexion journalist

Police are cracking down on elderly and disabled people swimming in the sea at Biarritz, despite them having medical prescriptions to do so, as it is against lockdown rules. 

One doctor, who has been writing medical prescriptions for his patients to allow them to practise water sports, has criticised the local authorities for preventing his patients from swimming.

“Police forces deployed on all beaches to prevent the practise of physical activities on medical prescription or disability. Sad to end up prohibiting and controlling activities beneficial to health that should have been exempted,” Guillaume Barucq, who is also a local councillor, wrote on Twitter. 

France entered lockdown on October 30 meaning a ban for certain activities. The official rules state that beaches, bodies of water and lakes are to remain open, but “nautical and recreational activities there are prohibited”. 

There is an exemption for people practising sports for medical reasons, but this does not apply to bathing or casually swimming in the sea, including with a doctor’s prescription.

There is also an exemption for professional sports people.

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Many elderly people from Biarritz who regularly swim in the sea are disappointed at the ban.

“It is essential for me to swim. My doctor orders me to,” Betty, a 91-year-old resident who suffers from degenerative neuropathy in her legs, told Le HuffPost. 

“It’s the same for me, I have coxarthrosis. Swimming makes me feel good,” another resident, Bernard said. 

Dr Barucq said that water sports were also important to counter the psychological impact of lockdown and the pandemic.

“Since I have been practising general medicine, I have never experienced such an epidemic of major depressive and anxiety disorders. This psychiatric wave must also be taken into account to limit the collateral damage of this crisis,” he Tweeted. 

Last Sunday, November 1, surfers gathered on the beach at Biarritz to protest the ban, which also affects them. 

One surfer, identified as Philippe, told France 3: “We are in November, not August. Going to the beach you are going to meet two, three people. We really feel that we are being punished.”

Under lockdown rules, everyone is entitled to leave their house for one hour to exercise within a one kilometre radius of their house. Only individual sports are allowed.

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