Dubai: Swimming pools are safe from COVID-19 transmission, provided people follow the guidelines laid out by health authorities in their respective emirates, according to health care experts.
Allaying public fears of using sanitised pools amid the pandemic, Dr Payal Modi, specialist medical microbiologist and chairperson of infection control at the NMC Royal hospital, Dubai said: “Pools are regularly sanitised and disinfected as per municipality guidelines for not just COVID-19 but other microbes and bacteria that are waterborne and can be transmitted to those swimming. In the UAE, as per the municipality guidelines, all pools are checked for their PH levels and disinfected with chlorine, which is a strong disinfectant that can destroy or inactivate the SARS COV 2 virus within 30 seconds. People are instructed not to spit or cough in pools, but in case this happens, all bacteria and viruses are destroyed as soon as it touches the water surface, which contains 1-2 parts per million (PPM) chlorine as per the municipal guidelines. Chlorine is what we use to disinfect COVID-19 wards in hospitals too. Therefore, there is no danger of transmission of COVID-19 through swimming pools.”
No known incidence of water body transmission
Dr Mohammad Rafique, medical director of Prime Healthcare and specialist pulmonologist, said, “So far, as per the Centre for Disease Control, there have been no known cases of transmission of COVID-19 through water bodies. In fact, at pools, where people need to be careful is in locker rooms, showers and use of any common articles such as nose clips, shower caps, snorkels etc. The common use of these items has to be avoided. In pools, the designated distance of one to three meters has to be maintained. The municipal authorities, in new guidelines post COVID-19, allow only one person per four square meters in water. Maintaining adequate distance in pools can ensure there is no airborne transmission of the virus.”
Dubai Municipality protocols
Dubai Municipality has issued strict post COVID-19 guidelines for all public pools that have reopened. The guidelines include regular disinfection of pools, use of masks and all COVID-19 hygiene protocols by lifeguards and other staff. The pools have to follow a regular cleaning and sanitisation regime in common areas such as locker rooms and showers after every use. There is a regular hygiene protocol to be followed for all closed areas with indoor ventilation near pool areas. Municipality rules ask for sanitisation every hour of articles that may be touched too often such as handrails, benches and installation of contactless sanitisation dispensers in these spaces.
Dubai Municipality has also prohibited pool bars and use of common pool articles such as goggles, shower caps, snorkels and towels. Patrons using pools must bring their own personal use articles.
There is a general guideline for people to use the common pool area for not more than a couple of hours.
How you can keep safe while swimming
Make sure you do not enter a crowded swimming pool. Maintain a two metre distance from the next swimmer.
If someone coughs, turn your head away.
Carry your articles of personal use such as towels, shower caps, ear plugs; avoid using common articles
In indoor pools, check with the officials about hygiene protocols and check the date and time when the pool was cleaned.
Avoid using public places such as showers, changing rooms and lockers.
It is better to book your swimming time with the authorities concerned in your building or hotel, preferably swim with your family where you are sure of their vaccination status and health condition.
Going by appointment will help you avoid any unknown user.