Tourists are being fined and having their sun loungers carted away on the Costa del Sol in a crackdown on reserving beach spots in the age of coronavirus.
With summer holidays resuming in Spain, families and couples have been arriving early to ‘park’ their towels and sunbeds before returning to the spot hours later.
But police and beach patrol officers have been called in to remove them and are confiscating dozens of folding chairs, tables and even an inflatable boat after complaints from other tourists – who are being turned away because there is ‘no space left’ under the coronavirus regulations.
Local authorities warn they will continue to fine ‘irresponsible’ sunbathers who they say are spoiling it for others.
The crackdown comes as authorities in Magaluf are considering closing notorious party strip Punta Ballena, according to local newspaper Diario de Mallorca, as the resort tries to shed its image as the refuge of British louts.
Crackdown: Folding sunbeds are taken away by authorities in the Costa del SOl after tourists complained that tourists reserving spaces were stopping others from getting on the beach
Filled up: A selection of sunbeds and other beach paraphernalia is carted away in the back of a van belonging to local police in Torrox
Torrox near Marbella on the Costa del Sol has already increased its fines and has handed out more this season than last summer, even though the beaches only reopened a few weeks ago once Spain’s state of emergency was lifted on June 21.
Torrox is one of the most popular beach destinations along the Malaga coastline, but space has had to be limited in order to maintain social distancing rules.
The rules are less strict than in some areas which have imposed more rigid measures, specifically marking out sunbathing zones with ropes or chalk.
Other resorts have a strict system whereby people have to use a phone app to book their places.
A statement issued by Torrox council warned: ‘May we remind all users of our beaches that space reservation is NOT allowed.
Local police ‘co-ordinate and watch over compliance with this rule and proceed to collect beach items that reserve the space,’ the statement said.
‘This year we add the Covid-19 issue as an additional reason to be responsible and not leave those items that occupy a space that for reasons of capacity and distance can be used by other users.
‘Walking, eating at the beach bar or nearby establishment can be done and In that case, the police are informed and there will be no action.
‘The goods are removed when it is detected that they have gone home and take hours to return until after a nap in many cases.’
‘Today it has been in Playa Ferrara but it will be taking action in all the others in the municipality.’
This graph shows the daily number of new coronavirus cases in Spain. According to the country’s health ministry, there have been 255,953 cases and 28,406 deaths
Authorities pack away three deckchairs at the beach in Spain where coronavirus rules mean that only limited numbers can go to the beach
A masked police officer makes a note as he stands in front of several deckchairs and an inflatable boat which were left unoccupied at the seaside
Other beach users have slammed the behaviour as ‘very uncivic’ and suggest the council should put a time limit on using the beach, possibly as little as two hours.
One said: ‘We are seeing this every day. These people aren’t disappearing to the beach bar. They are going home to eat or take a nap and then come back at 6pm.’
Another posted: ‘It’s time for people to become more aware. It’s not right for spaces to be occupied by umbrellas and chairs but no people.’
A local woman said she applauded the council for taking action, adding: ‘The same thing happened to be in Torre del Mar (Malaga).’
And another said: ‘It’s pathetic and disrespectful to tourists.’
Torrox council has already issued over 100 fines and taken away beach items which are put into their municipal store.
The owners can only retrieve their possessions by turning up in person and paying the penalty.
Whilst most agree with the council’s stance, others point out that the offenders ‘don’t care’ about losing their cheap umbrellas or chairs and can simply buy more.
Some parts of Spain have been placed back into lockdown and more than 70 coronavirus clusters have now been identified, prompting fears of further restrictions.
Officials have linked the latest outbreaks to movement of seasonal agricultural workers who travel around Spain to harvest fruit and vegetables.
The crackdown comes as council chiefs in Magaluf warn that British tourists who misbehave in the party resort will be punished.
Three British louts were filmed jumping up and down on a parked car in the party strip of Punta Ballena in the early hours of last Friday morning as revellers egged them on with football chants.
One of the holidaymakers was arrested as it emerged nearly £2,000 of damage had been done to the vehicle.
Torrox is one of the most popular beach destinations along the Malaga coastline, but space has had to be limited in order to maintain social distancing rules
Beach users have slammed the behaviour as ‘very uncivic’ and suggest the council should put a time limit on using the beach, possibly as little as two hours
Police and beach patrol officers have been called in to remove items and are confiscating dozens of folding chairs after complaints from other tourists
Reports say the regional government wants declare the Punta Ballena strip off limits to British holidaymakers, and could also shut down a German party strip in S’Arenal called calle del Jamon – Ham Street in English – which is also seen as problematic.
There was no immediate official response to the reports, which emerged several hours after Balearic Islands Tourism Minister Iago Negueruela pledged to increase existing sanctions.
Local police say they will be ‘uncompromising’ when it comes to making sure earlier closing hours and strict limits on the number of people inside nightspots and on bar terraces are obeyed.
Today the deputy mayor of Calvia Council, which covers Magaluf, said badly-behaving tourists would face the full consequences of the law.
Nati Frances, whose political brief includes responsibility for the town hall-employed local police, said: ‘We want tourists to come of course but not to misbehave like they did the other day.
‘We want holidaymakers to enjoy nightlife but not an alcohol theme park.’
Referring to footage of tourists jumping up and down on a parked car, she told island paper Diario de Mallorca: ‘Those images worry us because they demonstrate irresponsibility in times like these.
‘But it was something very specific. They don’t reflect what happened the following day.’
Locals fear the problem will only get worse in the coming weeks as more bars re-open and the number of British holidaymakers jetting to the area grows.
One man danced on the roof of a car (left) while others flooded onto a street on the party strip (right)
British tourists arrived to the famous Magaluf party strip in Spain to enjoy the start of their holidays
Magaluf town hall chiefs had predicted earlier this year the coronavirus crisis could sound the death knell for the alcohol-fuelled tourism that the party resort has been striving to kill off.
But Spain urgently needs tourism to revive its economy and the number of Brit holidaymakers flying to Spain has been growing since June 21 when they were allowed in for the first time in three months.
Costa holidaymakers were given a boost last Friday after quarantine was scrapped for people arriving at English airports from Spain.
Balearics Islands tourism minister Negueruela has said his government would be ‘especially vigilant’ to police the decree designed to eradicate drunken tourism.
This includes fines for balcony-jumping and bans on booze cruises and drink offers such as happy hours.
The minister said local authorities would do everything possible to make sure the type of tourist they want to keep away from party resorts like Magaluf ‘don’t have the option of coming to our islands.’
Mr Negueruela has been critical of Britain’s response to the coronavirus crisis, accusing it earlier this year of being too slow to adopt lockdown measures when Boris Johnson was still talking about pursuing his so-called ‘herd immunity’ plan.
The Balearic Islands government threw all its initial efforts into attracting holidaymakers from Germany as part of a foreign tourism pilot plan.