Italy Forbids Lifeguards from Using Mouth-to-Mouth Resuscitation

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ROME — Italy has enacted a series of detailed regulations for beach lifeguards as the country slowly emerges from total lockdown, including a ban on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to prevent coronavirus contagion.

Amidst the countless minuscule regulations decreed by the Italian government over every aspect of human activity, an entire set of rules specifically for lifeguards in Italy has been drafted as the nation prepares to cautiously reopen its beaches.

To ascertain whether a victim is still breathing, the regulations state, the rescuer will have to “evaluate respiration only by looking at the victim’s chest in search of normal respiratory activity, but without bringing his face close to that of the person being rescued.”

If required, lifeguards are to perform CPR on victims but only using chest compressions without accompanying ventilation.

They are told to evaluate a person’s state of consciousness “by calling, shaking and stimulating the injured person without approaching his face frontally.”

The new rules also stipulate that a lifeguard should only swim out to assist a swimmer in trouble as a last resort, having first exhausted other methods such as life rings and other apparatuses. If forced into physical contact with a swimmer, lifeguards are told to bring them to shore using a hold that does not expose them to the swimmer’s face.

Italian media welcomed the new restrictions with gentle derision, noting that given the self-imposed difficulties in sea rescues, the government should go all the way and outlaw drowning.

Lifeguards themselves were less circumspect in their criticism of the new norms.

“I find it absurd,” said Marco Maielli, president of the Life Guard Costa Ovest cooperative, which coordinates the lifeguard rescue activities on the coast of Marina di Castagneto Carducci. “The first cause of drowning is asphyxiation. Without clearing the airways, it is useless to restart the heart: the first minutes are decisive.”

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