April 12, 2021 – A new study by virologists at Imperial College London revealed that swimming pool water can inactivate the COVID-19 virus in 30 seconds, under the right conditions.

Check out our new video for updates and how swimmers can socially distance themselves in a pool:

The findings, which have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, suggest the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in swimming pool water is incredibly low.

Swim England worked collaboratively with baby swimming business Water Babies and the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) to commission the study and provide context and materials for the research.

“These findings suggest the risk of transmission from swimming pool water is low, and adds to the evidence that swimming pools can be safe and secure environments if appropriate measures are taken.”

– Jane Nickerson, Swim England Chief Executive

The study into swimming pool water was undertaken by leading virologist and expert in respiratory viruses, Professor Wendy Barclay, together with research associate Dr Jonathan Brown and research technician Maya Moshe from Imperial College London and project managed by Alex Blackwell, head of pools and facilities from Water Babies.

It looked at the effects of swimming pool water on the virus that causes COVID-19, named SARS-CoV-2, to assess the amount of time and contact needed to inactivate the virus in varying chlorine and pH levels.

The research established that 1.5mg per litre of free chlorine with a pH between 7-7.2 reduced the infectivity of the virus by more than 1000 fold within 30 seconds. Additional testing of different free chlorine and pH ranges confirmed that chlorine in swimming pool water was more effective with a lower pH – which is in line with current guidance for swimming pool operation.

Related: Social Distancing 101 for Swimmers

Professor Wendy Barclay, Imperial College, said: “We performed these experiments at our high containment laboratories in London.

“Under these safe conditions, we are able to measure the ability of the virus to infect cells, which is the first step in its transmission.

“By mixing the virus with swimming pool water that was delivered to us by the Water Babies team, we could show that the virus does not survive in swimming pool water: it was no longer infectious. That, coupled with the huge dilution factor of virus that might find its way into a swimming pool from an infected person, suggests the chance of contracting Covid-19 from swimming pool water is negligible.”

Jane said: “We’re delighted to have played a key role alongside Imperial College London, Water Babies and RLSS UK in this world-first piece of research.

Related: What Swimmers Should Know About The Coronavirus

Can it spread through water?

The Center for Diseases and Control claims the “CDC is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Plus, proper operation of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds (such as at an apartment complex or owned by a community) and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus.

The virus mainly spreads when respiratory droplets from infected people land in the mouths or noses of others or possibly when inhaled into the lungs by others. If a public pool, hot tub, or water playground is open, it is important for all visitors and staff to take steps to slow the spread of the virus:

  • Stay home if you are infected or might be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart (in and out of the water) from people you don’t live with.
  • Wear cloth masks when not in water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue (or use the inside of your elbow), throw used tissues in the trash, and wash hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available.

See Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs, and Water Playgrounds for more information.”

Is it safe to swim?

While chlorine can deactivate the coronavirus according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, some pools aren’t properly chlorinated and may not fully deactivate it. It’s important to think not just about the pool water itself, but also about the close proximity to others in your lane, in the locker room and on your commute to and from the pool.

In an interview with Channel News Asia, Professor Wang Lifa from Duke – NUS Medical School explained that “transmission [of coronavirus] through the swimming pool is unlikely unless the person is swimming very close to an infected person.” Dr. Wang was also part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency committee that looked into the virus outbreak.

The WHO released a set of guidelines about COVID-19 spread in pools. Read it here >

Additionally, FINA has established a COVID-19 Task Force to determine a plan of action should the virus affect international competition.

How Swimmers Can Avoid Coronavirus:

It’s important that each of us do our part to contain the spread of disease so more vulnerable members of the community, such as older people or people with compromised immune systems, don’t get sick.

It’s up to each of us to keep ourselves and our communities healthy! 

Practice Good Hygiene

As with other contagious diseases, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following to reduce your chances of getting sick:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap after using the bathroom, before eating and after encountering a sick person.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Disinfect objects or surfaces in your home that are frequently touched, such as tables and doorknobs.

Stay Home if You are Sick

If you are feeling under the weather, it’s best to stay home to avoid spreading your illness to others. This doesn’t just apply for work or school; if you’re feeling sick, stay out of the pool, too! If you feel up for it, try incorporating some light walks or at-home dryland workouts until you’re feeling better.

If you are sick for more than a few days, see your doctor to establish a treatment plan.

Related: Should I Swim When I’m Sick?

Avoid Traveling to High-Risk Areas

It is recommended to avoid all non-essential travel to countries deemed high-risk. For a full, regularly-updated list of these locations, visit the CDC’s website

My Pool is Closed. What Should I Do?

push ups

If your pool is closed for the foreseeable future, now is a good time to focus on dryland training. Check out these dryland ideas:

If you go to a gym, make sure to wipe down your equipment with a disinfecting wipe before and after you use it, and to wash your hands before and after your workout. 

Dryland Training Plans

Get Stronger, Swim Faster Dryland Plan

Check out the dryland training plans in the MySwimPro app for swimming-specific workouts designed for all ages and skill levels! Download the app and start a free, 30-day trial of ELITE COACH to unlock all of our dryland training resources.

Related: How Swimmers Can Workout Without a Pool

For more information about the novel coronavirus, visit the World Health Organization’s website or read this article from the American Society for Microbiology. While our advice is applicable generally, it is important to stay up to date with your local government’s policies relating to the coronavirus. If you are concerned you may be at risk to get coronavirus, talk to your doctor. 

The coronavirus knows no national, racial, financial or religious boundaries. This virus or any other health challenges can impact any of us. This is a reminder that we’re all one big family. Support each other and stay safe.

Happy swimming! 

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