As much of Europe prepares to loosen its lockdown measures, many people are tentatively planning vacations in the summer, perhaps making up for cancelled holidays in the spring or simply feeling the need for a change of scene. Escaping to a villa may seem like a preferable option over booking a hotel, thanks to the reduced footfall and therefore lower likelihood of COVID-19 infection, but many still have concerns over whether it is safe to stay in somewhere that has been recently occupied by other people.
Although no villa can claim to be completely free of Coronavirus, following cleaning and disinfection procedures advised by bodies such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) significantly reduces any risks. Many villa companies will be following these procedures, aiming to make this summer a safe and enjoyable time for their guests.
If you are concerned about villa safety this summer, the following cleaning guidelines should offer some reassurance. Of course, each business will operate differently, so it is best to ask about their specific cleaning procedures before you book. Currently, there is no European auditing procedure through which villas can prove this new standard of cleanliness, although this is something that could potentially be introduced in the future; Singapore and Malaysia have already launched new initiatives through which hotels can prove they are following the appropriate cleaning practices to combat COVID-19, and with tourist establishments seeking ways to build back trust this could be a good way to do it.
For now, here’s how villa rental agencies can make your summer holiday as safe as possible.
How villas can be cleaned to prevent the spread of Coronavirus
Strict guidelines for villa cleaning
It highlights that villa rental companies must first clean and then disinfect villas between guests – cleaning is the act of removing germs and dirt, such as wiping down a countertop with soap, and disinfecting is when you use chemicals to kill germs, such as spraying a countertop with a bleach solution.
Other cleaning guidelines include properly ventilating each room, washing all linens at the highest heat setting recommended by the manufacturer, and safely disposing of or washing cleaning supplies. There is also information on helping guests to protect themselves and a helpful checklist of items to clean and disinfect, although obviously this will differ from villa to villa depending on amenities. Carrying out these stringent procedures will significantly reduce the risk of infection spreading between guests, making villa vacations as safe as they can be for holidaymakers.
Can villa swimming pools spread COVID-19?
The CDC says that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools, hot tubs or spas, or water playgrounds. That’s because if they are properly operated, maintained, and disinfected to the usual standards that existed before the COVID-19 outbreak, this should be enough to inactivate the virus.
Industry experts Kilian Fisher and Paul Hacket share further advice on these standards on the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association’s (IHRSA) blog. They state that operators in most countries should keep chlorine levels in pools and spas between 1-3mg/l with the pH between 6.8-7.4. Spa pools that use bromine need to maintain their water at 4-6mg/l bromine or 3-5mg/l chlorine. Villa owners should also be carrying out routine tests for microbiological quality, in line with national guidelines.
Professor of Medicine Roberta Lavin on the U.S. Masters Swimming blog points out that currently, the main risk with swimming is the people outside your household bubble that you may encounter and the number of touchpoints you face in order to get to the water. In a villa you will only be sharing a pool with those in your ‘household’, meaning the risk is diminished.
Can villa spas cause infection?
Fisher and Hacket also cast a light on the safety of using saunas and steam rooms that have previously been used by other guests. Since saunas operate at higher temperatures (70-100°C or 158-212°F) and have porous wood furniture, it is difficult for any virus to survive for long within them. Guests are advised to not go in them if they are feeling ill in any way, however normal cleaning with using a mild soap should be suitable for making the sauna safe.
Steam rooms are typically a hard plastic or ceramic surface and run cooler, at around 40°C or 104°F with 100% humidity. These conditions mean that the virus may be more likely to survive. As such steam rooms require additional deep cleaning between each group of guests, making sure that there is enough time for the room to cool down enough to allow the cleaner to work safely.
To learn more about Singapore’s ‘SG Clean’ initiative: https://skift.com/2020/04/13/singapore-shows-what-the-new-clean-is-with-audit-initiative-for-hotels/
To read about Malaysia’s ‘clean and safe’ certification: https://www.tin.media/news/details/eligible-hotels-in-malaysia-to-be-certified-clean-and-safe-amidst-covid-19
To learn how to clean and disinfect appropriately: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html
To read Airbnb’s guide to CDC-standard villa cleaning: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/resources/hosting-homes/a/cleaning-guidelines-to-help-prevent-the-spread-of-covid-19-163
To learn more about whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through water: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html
To read about how pools, steam rooms and saunas can be kept safe: https://www.ihrsa.org/improve-your-club/pool-hot-tub-sauna-safety-during-covid-19/
To learn about the risk of swimming in community pools: https://www.usms.org/fitness-and-training/articles-and-videos/articles/coronavirus-and-swimming-what-you-need-to-know