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Swimming safety warning on social media is fake, say St John's Ambulance, Red Cross

Don't believe a post warning about double red flags at several beaches

Updated at 8.30pm - Adds MTA statement

A warning urging people not to swim at beaches such as Golden Bay and Fond Għadir is a scam and should be ignored, St John's Ambulance and the Malta Red Cross have said. 

The warning, which is doing the rounds on social media, claims that lifeguards have put up double red flags at Golden Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa, Fond Għadir and Buġibba beaches. The post claims St John's Ambulance had issued the no swimming warning.  

But St John's Ambulance first aid and nursing commissioner Gemma Sirol told the Times of Malta that there was no truth to the claim. 

"We're not even providing lifeguard services at beaches this summer," Ms Sirol said. "I am taking this false claim very seriously and will be filing a police report about it."  

A double red flag is the highest-possible safety alert and indicates beachgoers should stay dry and not swim. Lifeguards are not obliged to enter the water to rescue swimmers if they have put out this highest of alerts.

READ: When the double red flag appears, beware

Malta Red Cross director of operations Robert Brincau further confirmed that the post was a case of fake news.

"No beach is currently subject to a no swimming zone warning," he said. "We've received many calls from concerned members of the public this morning - the false claims seem to be spreading extremely quickly."

The Malta Red Cross is one of several organisations providing lifeguard services to beaches across Malta and Gozo. 

Photo: Facebook/St John's Ambulance MaltaPhoto: Facebook/St John's Ambulance Malta

The social media warning feeds into fears of treacherous sea conditions, coming one day after Emergency Response and Rescue Corps lifeguards working at Comino's Blue Lagoon had to rescue more than 100 swimmers who ignored a double red flag warning and got caught in strong currents.

"Although conditions are not perfect for swimming, there is no such alert for Maltese beaches today," Mr Brincau explained. He expressed concern that the false warnings could erode the public's trust in the lifeguard warning system. 

"The public tends to respond very well to double red flag warnings. When we issued a couple last summer, affected beaches were practically empty and we had no accidents," he said. "This is the first time I've heard of a fake warning being spread."

What are beach conditions like today?

Lifeguards have erected a red flag at Golden Bay and Għajn Tuffieħa beaches, indicating swimmers must take extreme care when in the water, yellow flags at Fond Għadir and Buġibba, and green flags at St George's bay, Għadira, Pretty bay and St Thomas bay. 

A green flag indicates a low level of risk, while yellow is used for medium-risk conditions, with bathers urged to stay alert while in the water.  

MTA deplores fake notices

In a statement, the Malta Tourism Authority deplored the fake notices.

CEO Paul Bugeja said that as in previous years, the MTA had once again engaged a number of organisations to carry out lifeguard services at a number of popular beaches throughout summer, including several which had a Blue Flag designation.

These lifeguards were providing an excellent service to swimmers and beachgoers, including a system of warnings by means of flags which gave an indication of sea conditions and relative safety.These are

"These are a reliable source of information for bathers and should always be obeyed,” he said adding that one should always be wary of other sources of information.

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