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Insights relating to spa facilities post lockdown

One of the factors that differentiate a spa from a beauty salon is the presence of hydro-facilities, such as saunas and hammams, but can we use them after lockdown?

Says George Tavelis of Tavelis Spa Concept: “According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Celsius is enough to kill most viruses. Saunas operate at 70 to 100 degrees Celsius, which is well beyond that temperature. Apart from that, the porous wooden interiors of a sauna do not allow viruses to take hold and survive. Finally, the regular use of mild soap or similar cleaning products to clean the sauna adds another layer of protection.”

Edward Wong, President Spa & Wellness Association Singapore, concurs: “Saunas operating at higher temperatures (70-100 C) and using porous wood furniture could make it difficult for virus to survive for long. The latest recommendations by IHRSA USA, which has 9,200 members in 70 countries, about pool, hot tub and sauna safety during the pandemic can be found on their website.”

Tavelis is at pains to point out that any spa guest who is not feeling 100% well in any way must not visit the sauna. “The sauna should not be considered as a way to treat a cold or any other viral infection.”

Regarding the safety of the hammam in terms of COVID-19 transmission, he says. “The difference between a sauna and a hammam is twofold. Firstly, the surfaces in a hammam are made of either marble of ceramic – as opposed to wood, and secondly, the temperature is around 40 degrees Celsius, with 100% humidity, so significantly lower than the sauna. As such, the virus has a better chance of survival in a hammam, compared to a sauna. Deep cleaning between users is therefore advisable. In practice, that means the hammam must be cooled down to the point that it is safe for the cleaning staff to work in, before it is heated up again for the next user.”

Wong adds: “Steam rooms and hammams with hard plastic or ceramic surfaces operating at about 40C and 100% humidity means the virus may survive in the environment. “

Pools and hot tubs

Tavelis notes that it is standard practice for the water in swimming pools and hot tubs to be treated with chlorine, which is a powerful disinfectant that will eliminate the virus. He continues: “The WHO recommends chlorine treatment of 15mg.min/litre. Needless to say, the requirement for guests to shower before and after a swim – which has always applied – is now even more critical.

“However, at the current stage, the decree issued by the Cyprus Ministry of Health requires a social distancing standard of 8 square metres per person. As we cannot implement this standard in the changing rooms, our clients will not have access to the heat and pool facilities during the first stage of re-opening, and for as long as this degree of social distancing is required.”

Wong agrees that swimming pool or hot tub disinfectants seem to control the virus. “Spa pools may use bromine 4- 6mg/l or chlorine 3-5mg/l as disinfectant to neutralise COVID-19. The normal range for chlorine is 1-3mg/l for unheated pools, and 1-4mg/l for heated swimming pools.”


Traditionally the most popular of all spa treatments, massage is obviously based completely on touch. But is it proved safe to give / receive a body massage in the COVID-19 era without gloves?

Says Tavelis: “Our therapists have been trained to follow the proper steps for medical hand hygiene, both before and after each treatment. This will ensure risk-free body massages without the use of gloves. As an additional precaution, our therapists have been instructed to change their uniform regularly within the same day. We will introduce online bookings, self-check-ins, automatic payments, mobile application, and other touch-free alternatives to replace previous procedures.”

Wong reiterates that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. “These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, so they quickly fall on floors or surfaces. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within one metre of a person who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

“By comparison, the back of an infected person’s body is less likely to transmit the virus. Massaging clients in prone position may be safer than supine. Wearing gloves for body massage may not protect the therapist from the virus if the client coughs, sneezes or speaks face to face. The glove does not help if you accidentally rub your nose, mouth or eyes with the glove on. COVID-19 may survive on plastic surfaces for up to three days, therefore dirty gloves can be a potent source of contamination. Wearing a surgical mask and disposing of it immediately after treating a client is a more effective protection.”

Both Tavelis and Wong are participating in the Professional Beauty Group’s free online World Spa & Wellness Conference, which runs from 12 to 14 May, and is moderated by Jean-Guy de Gabriac (founder of World Wellness Weekend and Tip Touch International) and Mark Moloney (Professional Beauty CEO).

To see the programme and to register click here

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