Splashing while social distancing, visits only by appointment and queues in front of the water: Open-air pools in Germany are starting the summer season in the shadow of the corona pandemic.
In Saxony outdoor swimming pools have been allowed to open their doors again since May 15th, and in North Rhine-Westphalia since Wednesday, May 20th.
Other states will follow suit in the coming weeks. In Berlin all outdoor pools – both for doing laps and bathing – will welcome guests again on May 25th, whereas Lower Saxony will just open its lap pools.
For the time being Hesse will be just reopening its pools for sports associations (Vereine). Bavaria does not want to open its pools until at least June, and Baden-Württemberg is still waiting to see how the overall situation develops.
Especially on hot summer days, many people long for a jump into the cool water. But this summer, the quick swim after work will not be possible everywhere without restrictions, explained Christian Ochsenbauer, managing director of the German Society for Swimming (DGfB).
In order to better manage hordes of potential visitors, many swimming pools want to offer special season tickets.
This is the case, for example, for the “Kölnbäder” (Cologne city pools), where customers are only admitted with e-tickets.
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
“Spontaneous visits are not planned [this year],” said press spokeswoman Franziska Graalmann.
By registering online, a concept also planned in Berlin, the pools would also be fulfilling their obligation to provide proof of attendance.
Distance, distance, distance
Whether on the sunbathing lawn, when standing in line at the diving platform or in the pool: distance is the order of the day. In Cologne or Düsseldorf, markings are already being put up on the ground, and in some pools the special lanes only permit people to swim in one direction.
The approximately 1.5 metre long pool noodles sometimes serve as spacers. The DGfB also recommends limiting the number of people in the pools.
“It can happen that people will have to stand in a queue in front of the pool,” said Ochsenbauer.
New tasks for lifeguards
Nobody can predict how the visitors will deal with the new rules. Operators such as the “Kölnbäder” rely on the common sense of their customers.
“We hope that some things have already been learned,” says Graalmann.
Nevertheless, he said, the staff are urged to check distance rules and to warn visitors if necessary. Anyone who absolutely does not want to adhere to them must leave the pool grounds. On the lawns, security will also check that no large groups have formed.
The lifeguards will be tasked with a different duty than usual this year: DGfB managing director Ochsenbauer suggests that they count the swimmers and block the pools if necessary.
The distance rules are intended to ensure that the coronavirus does not spread through the air. In addition, sanitary facilities should be cleaned more often; in Berlin, changing rooms and showers are slated to remain completely closed.
Some bathrooms also plan to interrupt operations every few hours and carry out a basic cleaning, as Ochsenbauer reports.
A cleaner already began disinfecting a pool in Darmstadt on April 23rd. At the moment, pools in Hesse will only open their doors to sports associations. Photo: DPA
Yet nobody has to worry about the virus spreading through the water: according to the Federal Environment Agency, filtration and disinfection in conventional swimming pool water ensures that viruses are reliably inactivated.
A piece of normality
Despite all of the restrictions this year, many operators are trying to establish something like normality. In most swimming pools, the little ones should also be able to romp in the paddling pools, said Ochsenbauer.
Even the obligatory open-air pool french fries are usually okay, as the built-in restaurants are open in many places. And if the rules on distancing are observed, attractions such as diving towers and slides should also be accessible to visitors.
Apart from safety and hygiene, there is another important thing to keep in mind, said Ochsenbauer: “Quality of life”.