Everything you need to know about chlorine and coronavirus - and whether it’s safe to go swimming

Monday, 13th July 2020, 2:42 pm
Updated Monday, 13th July 2020, 2:42 pm
Does chlorine kill the coronavirus? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Does chlorine kill the coronavirus? (Photo: Shutterstock)

As venues and businesses around the country prepare to welcome the public once again, some are asking if swimming pools are safe to visit.

Chlorine is used in swimming pools to keep them bacteria-free, but is the chemical effective against coronavirus?

Here’s everything you need to know about whether chlorine found in swimming pools can kill the Covid-19 virus.

Does chlorine kill Covid-19?

According to The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG), “coronavirus would be inactivated at the levels of chlorines used in swimming pools.”

Institutions like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have also made similar statements.

On the WHO website, there is a “fact or fiction” section dedicated to dispelling some of the common myths surrounding the coronavirus.

One question on the website asks, “Am I likely to get Covid-19 if I swim in a swimming pool?”

The WHO website answers, “Swimming in a well maintained, properly chlorinated pool is safe. However, it is advisable to stay away from all crowded areas, including swimming pools.

“Keep a one metre distance from people who sneeze or cough even in a swimming area.”

The CDC website states, “There is no evidence that the virus that causes Covid-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds.

“Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus.”

However the CDC adds that “chlorinated water alone should not be used as a surface disinfectant.”

Are swimming pools safe to visit?

A PWTAG spokesperson said, “The available evidence shows that the physical effect of the pool water and an appropriate relationship between free chlorine and pH value should inactivate the virus within 15-30 seconds.

"The dilution of virus in the pool water volume will also reduce the risk of exposure and transmission.”

However, Richard Lamburn, Swim England’s Head of Facilities, has warned that, until a vaccination or treatment for Covid-19 is found, then there will always be risks when undertaking any activity.

There will be strict rules when visiting swimming pools once they reopen.

In England, Swim England has issued “returning to the pool” advice which outlines the safety measures that swimmers will have to follow when visiting the pool.

Included in the guidance is advice such as:

  • You should not visit the pool if you are showing symptoms of Covid-19 (temperature, cough, difficulty breathing or loss of taste or smell)
  • You should bring hand sanitiser with you
  • Follow social distancing guidelines
  • Do not overtake other swimmers in the pool

The national governing body explains that, “The guidance is based on the latest scientific advice and Government guidelines and will be updated to reflect any changes announced in the future.

“It has been developed following lengthy consultation with Public Health England, Sport England, leisure operators, home country partners and a panel of representatives from clubs, swim schools, volunteers and other key stakeholders across the country, including medical professionals.”

It’s likely that pools in Scotland will have to follow similar procedures when they are permitted to reopen.

Outdoor swimming pools in England were able to reopen their doors on Saturday 11 July, with indoor swimming pools welcoming back swimmers from Saturday 25 July.

On the other hand, swimming pools across Scotland have yet to receive a date for when they can reopen their doors again.