Guidelines for the Reopening of Public Waterfronts and Beaches


This guidance is intended for both municipalities running the public beaches and for members of the public accessing the beaches for recreational use. This guidance was developed with the goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19. The risk of COVID-19 transmission through swimming in natural bodies of water is believed to be quite low; however, there is an increased risk of person-to-person transmission when a minimum of 2 metres radius of physical distancing is not observed. There is also a considerable risk of COVID-19 transmission via surfaces; therefore, it is imperative to avoid the use of common surfaces as much as reasonably possible, to disinfect surfaces between uses when inevitable and to practise hand hygiene frequently. It is mandatory to use beaches in accordance with the provincial emergency legislation and with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit advice on public health measures.

Public Health Recommendations

  • Do not go to the beach if you have symptoms such as sore throat, headache, fatigue, malaise, etc. or if you are under self-isolation because you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, are awaiting test results for COVID-19, have come in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, or if you have been advised to self-isolate by public health or another authority.
  • Municipalities are encouraged to develop a plan with the following guidelines:
    • Use educational tools such as onsite signs and/or social media messaging advising visitors about COVID-19 precautions when going to the beach.
    • Consider limiting the total number of people at the beach.
    • Manage the traffic flow as people enter and exit the beach and parking areas.
    • Post signs at conspicuous places at the beach, with self-screening questions and instructions for physical distancing and hand hygiene.
    • Ensure adequate handwashing stations/washrooms are available, with signs showing their locations and promoting handwashing. If handwashing is not feasible, consider providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol content) for visitors.
    • Clean and sanitize commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, toilets, change tables, etc.
    • Encourage beach users and employees to always maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from other people.
    • Non-medical face coverings should be used when physical distancing is not possible.
    • Gatherings must not include more people (from different households) than the number permitted under the provincial emergency order.
    • Stay up to date on the latest requirements under the provincial order, and incorporate these into your plan (e.g. removing or restricting play structures and common amenities at the beach, preventing people who are not members of the same household from having organized activities that involve sharing of play equipment, etc.)
    • Ensure that occupational health and safety legislation and guidelines are followed: and

Further Reading/Useful Resources

Guidelines for places where members of the public are served in person (Eastern Ontario Health Unit)
Guide to Reopening Pools and Waterfronts (Lifesaving Society)
Screening Sign for Visitors (Ontario Ministry of Health)
COVID-19 Symptoms (Ontario Ministry of Health)

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario