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SWIMMING

What are the new rules for swimming pools in Germany?

Some German states have already opened swimming pools, whereas others will be following in the coming weeks. Here's what you need to know, whether you're just taking a dip or swimming laps.

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. 

READ ALSO: Is it safe to go swimming in Germany this summer?

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.

E-tickets

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. 

READ ALSO: 'Glimpse of hope': The verdict in Germany on the easing of coronavirus restrictions

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.

Disinfecting

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.

READ ALSO: Expert Q&A: 'Social distancing will be needed for a very long time in Germany'

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”.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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