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Wanderlust during the pandemic: Should you swim in a hotel’s pool?

A lot has changed for restaurants — from how they lay out their seating to the way they wash their dishes and linen. Find out why you need to be extra careful if you’re heading to a steam room to relax.

Resource details:

Publication title: Operational considerations for COVID-19 management in the accommodation sector: interim guidance
Author(s): The World Health Organisation (WHO)
Publication date: 25 August 2020

What the guidelines are about:

The document, produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), provides guidelines for hotels and other accommodation facilities operating during the new coronavirus pandemic. The directions offer suggestions for how these facilities can minimise the potential spread of SARS-CoV-2 among staff and guests. 

These guidelines update an earlier version of the document published by the WHO.

Do you work in a hotel?

This Q&A with the World Health Organisation answers all your COVID-19 queries.

Planning a hotel stay?

This Q&A with the World Health Organisation tells you what you need to remember as a guest.

  • Remember to follow the basic preventive COVID-19 measures:
    • wash your hands frequently, 
    • cough and sneeze into a tissue or your bent elbow, 
    • keep a safe physical distance of at least one metre from others.
  • Is it safe to use the hotel pool? You can use the sauna, steam bath, pool or beach safely as long as there aren’t too many people close together.
  • If there are towels for guests to use at a pool or sauna, they should only be used once.
  • Hotels and accommodation facilities should have cleaning, disinfecting and processes, so that guests don’t have to worry about getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 from the person who stayed in the room before them.
  • If a guest starts to experience COVID-19 symptoms during their stay they should notify hotel management and seek medical attention immediately.

Click here for the full Q&A for hotel staff and guests, or keep reading for more details from the guidelines it’s based on.

Key take-aways from the guidelines:

Eating out

  • Restaurant and dining staff can wear disposable gloves but these should be changed often. Gloves should not be considered a substitute for washing hands, however. The WHO recommends that staff wash their hands when changing gloves.
  • Buffets and drink dispensing machines are discouraged.
  • If a restaurant does use a drink dispenser, any part of the machine that comes into contact with people’s hands must be sanitised regularly, ideally, after each time it is used. 
  • Countries should determine whether indoor dining is allowed.
  • Restaurant and dining facilities should provide hand sanitiser for guests and remind them to clean their hands when entering and leaving the facility. 
  • Preferably, all dishes and glasses should be washed in a dishwashing machine – even those items that have not been used by guests, since staff may have handled them during service. 
  • Hand washed dishes and glasses must be air dried or wiped down with a disposable paper towel.
  • All linen should, ideally, be machine washed at a temperature between 60 and 90 degrees. 
  • There should only be four people seated in a 10 metre area — so the back of one chair must be a metre away from the back of the chair behind it. 
  • Guests seated opposite each other must be one metre apart. 

Recreational facilities: gym, pools and saunas

  • These facilities should determine how many guests can be present while still maintaining a safe distance from each other. This number should be prominently displayed around the facility.
  • Relevant cloth mask rules should be followed at these facilities.
  • Towels provided to guests should be for single use only.
  • Guests should have easy access to hand washing facilities, disposable tissue dispensers, disinfectants and bins.
  • Surfaces that are touched regularly such as door, toilet and faucet handles should be cleaned and disinfected several times throughout the day.
  • Pay extra attention to physical distancing in steam baths, where there is usually little ventilation. 

Caring for symptomatic guests guests

  • The WHO discourages the continued stay of guests displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Instead, these guests should be temporarily isolated at the accommodation facility while local health authorities are contacted.
  • A private room should be provided for the symptomatic guest, depending on room availability. If isolation isn’t feasible, for example with children, the accompanying guest will also be considered a contact.
  • Room ventilation should be increased.
  • The WHO suggests that the symptomatic guest wear a medical mask when hotel staff enter the room. A distance of one metre should be maintained between the guest and hotel staff. Should the guest require close contact assistance, hotel staff should wear protective clothing including masks and eye protection.
  • When the guest has been transported from the hotel to a health facility, the room should be sanitised. 
  • If the hotel’s housekeeper is the one in charge of disinfecting and cleaning the room, it’s a good idea to keep the air conditioner or a fan on in the room for two hours before and after it’s being cleaned. 

You can find and download the guidelines here.

What do South Africa’s guidelines say?

Interprovincial travel is allowed in South Africa under lockdown level 2. In accordance with the country’s regulations, hotel turndown services must be stopped. Additionally, hotels should remove inessential objects like cushions, throws and decorations from guest rooms and rooms should be equipped with sanitiser. Read our resource on level 2 regulations here.

[Please note: Information on the new coronavirus is rapidly changing. Please refer to the World Health Organisation website for the latest information. Visit www.sacoronavirus.co.za for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]