Since restrictions were introduced for COVID-19, we’ve been receiving questions from strata managers and residents about whether committees should be closing pools and gyms, or if they are liable if they leave the pool open and someone contracts coronavirus (COVID-19). We draw your attention to the fact that the situation has changed regularly, and restrictions differ in each state. The following responses have been provided by Chris Irons, Hynes Legal and Tyrone Shandiman, Strata Insurance Solutions.
Question: Could you please confirm/advise if the pools at unit complexes in Queensland are to be opened on the 16/05/20 for a maximum of 10 people.
Can swimming pools in apartment buildings be opened as of midnight this coming Saturday night? They were referred to as shared pools according to the Qld Health Dept classification when they were directed to be closed, so are they classified as “public” pools which are to be open this weekend? Do spa pools remain closed?
Answer: Deciding to continue to keep the pool shut, at least in the short-term, might be a reasonable decision for some bodies corporate.
Chris Irons: I think the answer here is ‘yes’, albeit a qualified ‘yes’.
The Queensland Government has this week published this set of FAQs about the easing of restrictions. Page 6 refers to pools and says that ‘communal pools’ can reopen under certain conditions, including:
- one person per lane per lap swimming
- a maximum of 10 swimmers per pool
- no spectators, except for up to one parent/carer per child, if necessary
- communal showers and change rooms are closed, toilets may remain open
- minimise the use of communal facilities
- shower with soap before and after swimming (at home, not at the pool)
While the FAQs are helpful in some respects, they do not answer absolutely every question, including what is and isn’t a ‘communal pool’ and we’re going to have to continue to live with ambiguity for some time yet. That said, on balance, the FAQs do suggest that body corporate pools can reopen from 16/05.
Ensuring the conditions listed above are met might be tricky for some bodies corporate. While you’d hope any users of pools would take precautions and be responsible for their own actions, arguably the ultimate responsibility will fall to the body corporate because the pool is common property and thus its responsibility to maintain.
Committees should be thinking now about how that 10-person limit is going to be monitored, bearing in mind there are still penalties possible for breaches of health directives. Proper decision-making and record-keeping processes must be followed. Deciding to continue to keep the pool shut, at least in the short-term, might be a reasonable decision for some bodies corporate.
I think continue to keep an eye on the website for any further updates and clarifications leading up to the weekend, as well as any media announcements.
No doubt there will be questions from many people and organisations about many aspects of the easing of restrictions leading up to Saturday, and sometimes those questions get answered at press conferences or in statements.
This post appears in Strata News #351.
- Non-essential business, activity and undertaking Closure Direction (No.4). Published by Queensland Health, 31 March 2020.
- NSW COVID-19: Should Owners Corporations & Community Associations Prohibit Use of Their Recreational Facilities?
- Using the Pool, Gym and Other Recriational Services During the COVID-19 Period
Please Note: This information was current at the time of publishing on the 19 March. We will be updating information as it comes to light.
Question: Should we close pools at schemes for the safety of all residents? Is the committee liable if they keep a pool open and someone gets Coronavirus?
I have received the same question about pools and the coronavirus from many committees.
Should we close pools at schemes for the safety of all residents? Is the committee liable if they keep a pool open and someone gets Coronavirus?
Answer: At the moment, there is no advice from government to close pool facilities in strata buildings.
Chris Irons: I’m not sure why pools need to be closed ‘for safety’. The only reason that should occur is if there is a direction from health officials to do so. I’m not aware of any such directive being made thus far. Indeed, if places like gyms remain open and the two major football codes are playing (albeit under changed conditions), then I don’t know why bodies corporate would need to make different arrangements about their fitness facilities.
Related Article: NAT: Coronavirus & Strata – What Does the Legislation Say? Not Much!
Tyrone Shandiman: It is our recommendation for Strata buildings to follow the advice of government.
In the Youtube video: Two virus experts answer your questions on coronavirus/COVID-19, health officials believe the risk of catching COVID-19 from a swimming pool is low due to the treatments used in water. see from around 27 min into the video.
Transcript from the video:
Presenter Sunanda Creagh: What is the likelihood of transmission from using a public swimming pool?
Dr Lisa Sedger: I would think, quite small because:
- the virus would be quite diluted in a swimming pool
- swimming pools are all treated with chlorine for example, and chlorine is a very effective antiviral agent.
You’d have to drink a lot of swimming pool water to get the virus.
Professor Michael Wallach: I agree with that.
From a liability perspective, it is always a matter that can only be determined by legal professionals (& judges if the matter goes to court) once a legal claim is made based on the specific circumstances of the claim – as no two liability claims are ever the same, it is difficult to comment on hypothetical scenarios. However, on face value, I believe a plaintiff would have difficulty demonstrating they caught COVID-19 from the swimming pool and not from other sources – this would make demonstrating negligence inherently difficult.
A review of different policies on the market suggests that exclusions might apply – for example:
- An exclusion for “disease” in the General Exclusion Section of the policy;
- An exclusion for “disease” in the Office Bearers Liability or Public Liability section. Where such exclusion does exist for the Office Bearers Liability section, further investigation of the Public Liability section of the policy should take place to determine whether it covers office bearers and if a subsequent disease exclusion applies.
Cover applicable under strata insurance policies for infectious diseases differs from insurer to insurer and the body corporate should seek specific advice from their insurance broker about the policy.
This post appears in Strata News #330.
This information is of a general nature only and neither represents nor is intended to be personal advice on any particular matter. Shandit Pty Ltd T/as Strata Insurance Solutions strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information in this document, but should obtain appropriate professional advice based on their own personal circumstances. This information is designed as a basic guide with relation to cover and you should refer to your Policy Schedule and Product Disclosure Statement for all terms and conditions related to cover under any insurance policy. Shandit Pty Ltd T/As Strata Insurance Solutions is a Corporate Authorised Representative (No. 404246) of Insurance Advisernet Australia AFSL No 240549, ABN 15 003 886 687.
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