Swimming pool precautions in COVID times

Swimming pools and trainers are putting protocols in place to make sure people stay safe, but doctors say it is best to avoid a crowd

Pools are opening up across the country, and while many doctors say they are best avoided because of crowds and the looming second wave of infections, it is not the water itself that is the problem.

The US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it “is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools…”

However, it is best to be cautious, check pool protocol, and always maintain physical distance in the water, on the deck, and in changing rooms. Swimming facilities and trainers are putting some precautions in place. Check for these at your local pool.

Know that you may experience reduced use of changing facilities, more physical health checks, and depleted access with advance booking of time slots, restricted numbers, and fewer pools reopening.

Overall ill-health

Manisha Khungar, a swim coach in Gurugram is waiting until April, when summer is fully here, to begin coaching. She wants to wait out the change-of-weather period of “cough-cold symptoms that overlap with COVID-19 ones”.

In order to make sure people do not show up at the pool sick, even if it is a regular flu, pools are now offering add-on periods, so people own up to their sickness and not forgo using the facility. “Earlier we would say no to make-up classes; now we would rather people stay away for those two or three weeks and take the classes at a later date,” says Nisha Millet, who runs training in 10 centres across Bengaluru. Fitso centres in Delhi-NCR offer this extension too.

Nisha’s academy has two-week training classes in addition to month-long ones, because of the overall uncertainty. Most pools will ask for a health declaration.

In the water

Pick a pool that does not allow walk-ins and restricts entry to only a few, so you will need to book a time slot that is fixed. Now, lanes are designated, with one person per lane only, for a metre long physical distancing to be maintained. If there is no lane divide, avoid crowding or standing in groups.

With events having begun, amateur athletes are often in a hurry to get back to training. “Take it slow, and don’t judge yourself,” says Manisha, of the loss of pace and form. “A well conditioned swimmer won’t take more than four swims to get back to pre-pandemic levels.” She says others may take up to eight weeks. “Stick with the drills, look at stroke and technique correction. Be regular and consistent.”

Pooja Zeuch keeps numbers low for physical distancing at her aqua aerobics class  | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Pooja Zeuch, an aqua aerobics teacher at the Conrad in Bengaluru says her batches have just six people, where earlier there were 15. She now does three sessions rather than one. “I have created stations so that there is social distancing,” she says, adding that people would earlier exchange equipment in a circuit, which is not done any longer. “Earlier, if the next batch came in early, I would tell them to get in the pool to wait; now that is not done.”

Manisha says many people are opting to get trainers to condominium pools so they are aware of medical history. For tweaks to technique, she has found that she can coach from outside of the water. Nisha says her instructors have been taught to hold the kickboard at one end while the child holds the other, to be as distant as possible.

Before and after a swim

Masks, temperature checks, sanitisation are all a part of on-ground protocol. In addition, make sure you are not touching other people’s towels or clothes.

If possible, shower in an outdoor area before you plunge into the pool. You could opt not to enter the changing room after, dry off in the sun, and head home to bathe and change.

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