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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”