Is it possible to contract the coronavirus from swimming?

Enhanced social distancing measures were announced on Tuesday and gatherings are now limited to 10 people at a time. Some people have asked if it is still safe to go swimming in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q Is it safe to go swimming during this period? Can the virus be transmitted through water?

A It is known that the virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets and saliva, but there is currently no evidence suggesting that the virus can be spread through water, hence making swimming one of the safer sporting activities.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam also suggests that it is generally safe to go swimming, as the water and chlorine within swimming pools could help to kill the virus.

People, however, should be mindful of their interactions with others outside of the water.

Professor Paul Tambyah from the department of medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine noted media reports about an infection cluster in a South Korean church that sprayed saltwater in its churchgoers' mouths. However this incident does not provide clear evidence suggesting that the virus can be transmitted via water, he said.

He also said that it is not known how long the virus can survive in plain water, and there have been no cases of viral transmission through plain water. Thus, citing the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, he concludes that recreational activities in water are generally safe.

Q What precautions should one take outside the swimming pool?

A Individuals should practise good basic hygiene by refraining from sharing towels, and showering before entering the pool, said Prof Tambyah. He also cautions that individuals should avoid public pools when they are unwell. It should be noted that those given stay-at-home orders should remain home at all times. If they leave their homes, they will be guilty of breaking the law.

As common facilities such as locker rooms and showers may be crowded, showering at home could be a safer precautionary measure.

Dr Leong also advised individuals to avoid lingering around the pool area, and to go home directly after swimming.

SportsSG has also regulated the number of people using the ActiveSG swimming pools at any time, and closed off children's pools in line with the advisory issued by the Ministry of Health on March 13, which said that sports centres with indoor facilities should limit the number of patrons and introduce physical separation measures, on top of increased cleaning frequency and issuing advisories to reduce unnecessary contact.

Q: Are lane segregation measures introduced effective against the spread of the virus?

A: Lane segregation has been implemented at running tracks and swimming pools, in line with the precautionary measures that came into force on Monday last week.

This meant that several running lanes were cordoned off at various stadiums, restricting runners to a few available lanes.

ActiveSG swimming pools have placed lane ropes restricting swimming to the length of the pool. Certain lanes have been allocated for swimming classes and lap swimming, while the rest are available to other swimmers.

Experts have warned that while such social distancing measures make sense, people should still be wary of possible overcrowding.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2020, with the headline 'Is it possible to contract the coronavirus from swimming?'. Print Edition | Subscribe