Dubai municipality gave the green light to resume various business and sporting activities, including indoor swimming pools at the beginning of July, but when re-opening facilities needed to ensure they followed strict guidelines, and maintain a COVID-secure environment for pool users. This included the implementation of social-distancing rules. Swimming pool facilities and related activities are now allowed to operate throughout the Emirates, at least for time being. Everyone is hopeful that the decision to reopen will allow members of the public to return to healthier habits, and allow everyone to enjoy the many and varied benefits these water-based activities provide.
But the swimming pool environment will be different. We are entering a phase that could be described as ‘the new-normal’ due to the ongoing threat of Covid-19. In addition to their responsibilities for drowning and accident prevention, lifeguards will also need to assess pool users for signs of infection, and be assigned roles that maintain social distancing rules. The good news is that according to guidance issued by the American CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) any viruses that find their way into swimming pool water are unlikely to infect others.
“There is no evidence that the virus that causes Covid-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas… Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.”
Though it’s unlikely anyone will get infected with coronavirus whilst actually swimming, it doesn’t mean the activity is completely risk-free. So how can we all keep ourselves safe when returning to enjoy the swimming pool?
Ways to keep yourself safe from coronavirus in swimming pools:
- Keep to the two-metre social distancing rule – it has now by necessity become our usual way of doing things – when in public spaces everyone needs to keep their distance. The Dubai Healthcare Authority’s (DHA) efforts to raise awareness about the importance of social distancing aligns with the recommendations of governments around the world. It is necessary to slow down the spread of coronavirus and decrease the rate of infection.
- Wear a mask – the virus can be spread through respiratory droplets, and wearing a mask is the best protection against the spread. But of course, you will need to remove the mask before entering the water, otherwise, you may drown.
- Wash your hands – regular handwashing, preferably with soap and water. It is one of the best ways to combat the spread of coronavirus infection. This is our first line of defense against becoming sick. Good hygiene is key in both avoiding and spreading of the virus.
- Avoid touching surfaces – regularly, or commonly touched surfaces at the pool should be regularly cleaned and disinfected – examples include the changing rooms and washroom; all door handles; pool ladders; light switches, and furniture. Recent studies have found that the virus can survive for 4 hours on copper, a whole day on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
- Bring your own swimming equipment – since the transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces, it would be much safer for pool users to bring their own goggles, kickboards, and child buoyancy devices such as armbands etc. It is difficult to disinfect shared equipment like this.
- Locker rooms come with increased risk – the virus loves enclosed spaces. Locker rooms are the places where people can often come into close proximity with one another – the risk of transmission is therefore greater. Shower handles, chairs, faucet handles and doorknobs can all harbor the virus. This is also the place where people sometimes forget to wear their masks.
All of us have an important role to play to reduce the effects of this pandemic. We need to follow government guidelines, as well as the rules and regulations set out by the facilities we use. If we do this we will keep ourselves safe. We will also protect the health of others. Everyone will then be able to enjoy using swimming pools long into the future.
Co-Founder & Managing Director