How safe is swimming in the time of corona?

19. November 2020

If you're lucky enough to have an open indoor pool nearby but usually avoid crowds, you can confidently pack your swimsuit. With the correct behaviour, the risk of getting infected with the coronavirus through bathing water is extremely low.

Even those who swallow water in which a Covid-19-positive person is swimming do not need to worry. This is because on the one hand, the dilution effect in bathing water is so enormous, the viral load is undetectable. And on the other hand, the bathing water in Switzerland is painstakingly cleaned, filtered and treated with chlorine or other chemicals: which means the coronavirus doesn’t stand a chance.

Danger zones: changing rooms and toilets

You can still, however, get infected with SARS-CoV-2 in an indoor pool in those places where infected people leave behind particulate matter that stays in the air for a long time. Depending on the ventilation, this can happen when you wait in line at the cash register, in the changing rooms or toilet cubicles. The latter should be particularly critically assessed, as the rooms are relatively cramped and crowded and rarely have a large supply of air. The same applies to closed changing cubicles. It is better to change quickly in the large changing room where there is movement in the air.

Keep your distance at the edge of the pool

Even the edge of the pool in a swimming lane cannot always be considered a safety zone; particularly at peak times, when many people are in confined spaces, the distancing rule is difficult to comply with. And if there aren’t any double-width lanes, you shouldn't linger there for too long. Even chatting in the water at the edge of the pool should be reduced to the bare minimum. Since the noise level in pools is generally high, you have to resort to loud and clear pronunciation in order to be understood. Without the distance, this increases the risk of droplet infection.

Carefree swimming

While swimming, the risk of infection is low if you swim in disciplined circles in the swimming lanes and don’t tussle around with people from other households in the paddling pool. On the one hand, arm-stroke and leg-kicking movements turn over the layers of air directly above the water surface so strongly that exhaled particulate matter seldom remains in one place. On the other hand, the plumes of water caused by swimming movements help to continuously dilute the air above the surface of the water. For the same reasons, showering before and after training is not a problem. The shower jet dilutes particulate matter in the air and pushes it down.

Swimming kickboards, pull buoys, etc.

In the case of kickboards, pull buoys or pool noodles that are shared by several people, the risk of smear infections is extremely low. That is, when adult swimmers use these aids. This is because the aids are constantly «rinsed» with chlorine water during use and are thus effectively «disinfected». In the case of small children, there is the danger that spit will stick to the aids. If you want to be safe, take your own equipment with you or completely dip the indoor pool’s equipment into the water before using it.