Swim England’s Head of Facilities, Richard Lamburn, has more than ten years experience in the management of swimming facilities. Here, he answers some of the common questions following the new government guidance relating to the reopening of swimming pools.
Does the chlorine in the swimming pool water make it a safe environment?
Until a vaccination or treatment for Covid-19 is found there are always risks when undertaking any activity. Swimming pools are well managed spaces with numerous risk control measures in place.
The World Health Organisation states that: “Conventional, centralised water treatment methods that utilise filtration and disinfection should inactivate the Covid-19 virus. Other human coronaviruses have been shown to be sensitive to chlorination and disinfection with ultraviolet (UV) light.”
The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) states that: “The available evidence shows that the physical effect of the pool water and an appropriate relationship between free chlorine and pH value should inactivate the virus within 15-30 seconds. The dilution of virus in the pool water volume will also reduce the risk of exposure and transmission.”
Furthermore, Swim England’s Returning to Pools guidance and PWTAG technical notes have been produced in consultation with Public Health England, supporting the view that coronavirus would be inactivated at the levels of chlorine used in swimming pools. We are recommending additional measures to further reduce the risks, such as maintaining social distancing wherever possible and not sharing equipment.
Is airborne transmission of the virus a particular problem in swimming pools?
The air circulation systems within pool halls are designed to undertake at least four complete air changes every hour. Alongside this addition of fresh air our pool hall air circulation systems are designed to remove the air above the surface, which in turn should assist in removing airborne transmission of viruses. There is also anecdotal evidence that suggest that higher temperatures and humidities we have in pools can play a positive effect in reducing transmission of airborne particles. Again, we are also recommending further risk control measures such as maintaining social distance wherever possible, reducing the maximum number of swimmers allowed in a pool at any time, widening lanes where appropriate, ensuring each lane swims in the same direction and encouraging swimmers to breathe to the other side when crossing within a lane.
Traditionally during lane swimming, lanes would alternate between clockwise and counter clockwise swimming. Why have you recommended changing this?
This is linked to the previous point about reducing the risk of airborne transmission of the virus. By changing the lane rotation we can decrease the instances of people passing closely to other swimmers.
The Government guidance states that the maximum bather load is three square metres per swimmer. This is different to your guidance, why?
The maximum bather load of three square metres per swimmer as currently stated in the Government guidance was the maximum bather load pre Covid-19. It would not be possible to maintain social distancing if this was adhered to. We believe this to be an error within the Government guidance and we have raised this with the department for clarification and amending. We worked closely with the department on their guidance and this figure was not included in any of the discussions we had. Pool operators should follow our guidance on maximum bather loads to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
Can groups of more than six people go swimming?
Yes. The Government guidance states that Covid secure venues, such as swimming pools, can host larger groups.