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 Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen and with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit advice on public health measures.

Public Health Recommendations

  • Complete a COVID-19 screening prior to going to the beach using an appropriate screening tool. If you fail the screening, do not go to the beach and act on the recommendations provided (e.g. self-isolate, visit a COVID-19 Assessment Centre to be tested, self-monitor for symptoms, contact primary care provider, etc.).
  • Municipalities are required 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 so social distancing can be adequately maintained all the time.
    • 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.
    • Ensure beach users and employees always maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from other people (from different households).
    • Face covering and eye protection are required when dealing with unmasked individuals.
    • Gatherings must not include more people (from different households) than the number permitted under the provincial emergency order.
    • Stay up to date on Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen and incorporate the requirements into your plan.
    • Ensure that occupational health and safety legislation and guidelines are followed. Review: and Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace.

Further Reading/Useful Resources

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