A well-run, clean swimming pool with appropriately treated water using chlorine at internationally accepted levels should provide adequate disinfection to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
Operators should ensure chlorine levels in pools and spas are kept between 1-3mg/l with the pH between 6.8-7.4. Spa pools that use bromine need to maintain their water at 4-6mg/l bromine or 3-5mg/l chlorine. Routine tests for microbiological quality should also be undertaken in line with national guidelines.
Given that the virus is a new one, experts cannot say with absolute certainty that it will be safe. However, most authorities believe that pool and spa waters that are adequately disinfected should not spread the disease. A bigger risk will be the face-to-face interaction between individual users of the pools and spas.
Continue following all the regular advice about not shaking hands and coughing/sneezing into a tissue and disposing of it immediately.
Operators will need to maintain diligent hygiene standards in changing areas, toilets, and showers. Operators need to ensure pool water standards are at their best by regular water testing and taking actions if they are not in acceptable norms.
Here are some other best practices when it comes to pool safety:
- Swimmers and spa users who feel unwell should not use public facilities and under no circumstances spit or blow their noses in the water.
- Swimmers and spa users should wash their hands with soap and water often. Do this for at least 20 seconds.
- Everyone should wash their hands when entering the facility. Use hand sanitizer gel if soap and water are not available. Health authorities recommend solutions with 60% alcohol or more.
- Everyone should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow (not their hands) when they cough or sneeze.
- Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterward.
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
It is important to remember that users can introduce a variety of germs into pools and spas by not abiding by a thorough pre-swim/treatments/spa regime. Personal care products like perfumes, hair sprays, creams, etc. can introduce “bad” chemicals into swimming and spa pools and hot tubs, which can cause adverse effects on pool treatment chemicals and systems.
“Ever since my start in the industry as a swimming teacher and coach, I have always advocated for all customers (adults and children) to wear flip flops from changing rooms to poolside to avoid picking up potential infections including common fungal infections such as veruccae,” says Fisher.
In some European countries and many clubs, it is normal and often mandatory to shower before using the facilities, and some require a swimming cap.