Is it safe to go swimming in Germany this summer?
Most outdoor pools, as well as some lakes, are opening to the public by the end of the month around Germany. But just how safe is it to go for a swim?
Most swimming pools and lakes will be heavily regulated, meaning that only a handful of people will be allowed in the water or changing areas at the same time.
German experts weigh in on the situation for summer swimmers, whether you’re planning on cooling off in one of Germany’s many lakes or swimming laps in a Freibad (open-air pool) or Sommerbad (open-air bathing area).
Rumour: Due to the threat of infection from coronavirus, swimming in open-air pools, lakes and seas is too dangerous.
General evaluation: Swimming in itself is not problematic. But visitors to beach or open-air pools must observe the rules of distance (at least 1.5 metres space between people)
While most swimming pools are treated with chlorine, larger swimming areas often lack chemical treatment, which could carry some risks.
Facts: If you go to the swimming pool, the lake or the sea, you should also be careful outside the water. A virologist's nightmare is a mass of near-touching towels with people sunbathing on them.
Yet there is little cause for concern when it comes to chlorine-disinfected bathing water in indoor and outdoor pools.
In these, the virus is "reliably inactivated", Christian Ochsenbauer, managing director of the German Society for Swimming, told DPA.
Yet bathing ponds - or small lakes (Badeseen) - use a biological treatment rather than chlorine.
According to Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA), they do not contain any disinfectants, so they carry a certain risk of infection, which they advise is pointed out to bathers on site.
A 'Freibad' or open-air pool in Ochtrup, North Rhine-Westphalia, which is expected to open its doors to swimmers on May 20th. Photo: DPA
Coronavirus is also detectable in wastewater that has not yet been treated, explained Janne Vehreschild, who heads a working group on the risk factors for Covid-19 at the German Centre for Infection Research.
"However, it is not yet clear whether these amounts are sufficient for an infection,” said Vehreschild.
But going for a swim or dip in larger natural waterways such as the North and Baltic Seas is harmless, according to the UBA.
The risk of infection is extremely low due to dilution in water: "Rising water temperatures and increased solar radiation in summer will cause an even greater inactivation of viruses that may have been introduced into the water," they said in a statement.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has found no evidence that the coronavirus is transmitted via any waterway.
As a matter of principle, however, people with respiratory tract infections should avoid swimming or bathing in order not to endanger others, warned the UBA.
"This applies regardless of the potential pathogens involved,” they said.