Nudists spread coronavirus in a French resort

For many of Europe's naturists, and the tens of thousands of swingers among them, Cap d'Agde has become a traditional summer destination, but a coronavirus outbreak here has shone an uncomfortable light on their alternative lifestyle.

France has seen a surge in infections, with 7,000 people recently testing positive in one day. The southern area of Hérault, and Cap d'Agde in particular, has seen some of the biggest numbers.

Home to the biggest naturist resort in Europe, it has a distinct focus on hedonism.

But now health authorities - who set up a mobile testing operation outside the village - have found 30% of the 800 naturists checked have tested positive.

Known as the "village naturiste", the resort is a secluded community with around a dozen swinger clubs and saunas as well as erotic nightclubs that have hideaways for couples to get intimate in or out of the view of others.

Of course not all naturists are swingers - who swap sexual partners - and some visitors prefer the quieter vast camping site opposite the main village.

But at Cap d'Agde there is a lot of crossover. "Everyone is in close contact all day long and of course naked," one swinger couple told the BBC.

"We all know why we are here. There are plenty of other more traditional family-based naturist camps elsewhere along the coast without the sex clubs."

At the height of an average summer the village attracts around 45,000 people a day, and most are there for a week in a rented property with names such as Babylon, Cupid or Eden. There are also weekenders and day-trippers.

But that was before Covid.

How the outbreak began

In late August two employees at a plush hotel in the village tested positive for Covid-19.

The hotel owner admitted a raunchy party had taken place on the roof terrace and social-distancing rules had disappeared.

"We have been hit doubly hard," David Masella, the manager of the "village naturiste" explained. "Forty percent of our visitors are foreign, most come from the Netherlands and Germany, followed by Italians and the British."

"With the virus, a lot of those regular foreign holidaymakers simply stayed away this year. And then of course we were hit by the virus but maybe that was inevitable.

"You need to know that, with 10,000 campsite pitches and 15,000 beds in the village itself, the population density here is seven times greater than in the nearby city of Montpellier."