German lifeguard service: ‘Coronavirus won’t stop guards saving drowning swimmers’

A recent report that lifeguards had been told it was up to them to make a judgement call on saving drowning people during the pandemic caused concern among readers. We talked to the lifeguard service to set the record straight.

German lifeguard service: 'Coronavirus won't stop guards saving drowning swimmers'
DLRG guards on the beach in Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

“We are in a moral dilemma here,” a lifeguard at the Baltic resort of Travermünde told DPA news agency on Saturday. 

“We have to keep our distance so as not to endanger ourselves and others, but with a distance of 1.50 metres it is difficult to save someone from drowning.” 

The DPA report stated that: “Ultimately, each guard has to decide for himself what risk he wants to take.”

Understandably this led to some anxiety and confusion among readers.

“As if somebody drowning really cares about getting Corona from the ones saving him…,” one reader commented on Facebook. 

Another said: “If that’s a dilemma, you really shouldn’t be a lifeguard!”

Swimming in Germany 'definitely not more dangerous' this year

Achim Wiese, spokesperson for the German Life Guards Association (DLRG), told the Local there was no need to worry about lifeguards not rescuing you due to fear about catching coronavirus.

“Ultimately it is always the choice of a lifeguard as to whether he saves someone in trouble in the water,” said Wiese.

“In a normal summer, if we raise a red flag – which signals a strong current or an impending storm – and someone goes swimming anyway, then the lifeguard has to make a judgement call. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rescue the person,” he said.

Wiese confirmed that there are new rules that have been put in place to try and maintain social distancing between guards and swimmers. Lifeguards are now encouraged to use boats more in rescues or to swim out with boards so that the swimmer can lie on the board instead of being carried by the guard.

“We also ask the guards before they go on duty if they are prepared to take the risk of coming into close contact with people who need to be rescued. If they say no then we don’t put them on the beach this year,” Wiese said.

Swimming in German seas “is definitely not more dangerous” this year than in any other year, he said, “that is as long as you stick to swimming on beaches where lifeguards are watching the water”.

According to the DLRG, 192 people drowned in Germany in the first seven months of the year, 63 more than in the same period last year. 

The main reasons for the drowning, according to the data, were bathing on unguarded beaches, alcohol, carelessness and overestimation of one's own capabilities.

READ MORE: German lifeguards face moral dilemma during pandemic

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German Chancellor Scholz tests positive for Covid after Gulf tour

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has tested positive for the coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms after returning from a tour of the Gulf, his spokesman said Monday.

German Chancellor Scholz tests positive for Covid after Gulf tour

The 64-year-old Social Democrat is isolating in his apartment in the chancellery, and will attend meetings online, spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

At the weekend, he visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on a hunt for new energy sources after Russia cut gas supplies amid tensions over the Ukraine war.

He signed a deal Sunday for the UAE to supply natural gas and diesel to Germany.

READ ALSO: UAE to supply Germany with gas and diesel 

Meanwhile Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, also of the SPD, announced via Twitter on Monday that she had tested positive for Covid.