Last reviewed 25 March 2021

Organisations across the country will be looking forward to 29 March and the chance to begin reopening but they have been warned of the potentially fatal consequences of doing so before carrying out vital safety checks on their water supply.

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Local Government Association (LGA) have highlighted the chances of bacteria forming in the water systems after businesses and buildings have been closed for months.

This could lead to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which can be contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water in the air. It can cause fever, a dry cough and pneumonia, with the potential for increased susceptibility during or after contracting Covid-19.

There were 295 recorded cases of Legionnaire’s disease with symptom onset between January and October 2020, despite the closure of many businesses.

The CIEH and LGA are urging those responsible for buildings to flush cold water systems with fresh mains water and to increase the temperature of hot water systems to above 60°C.

Julie Barratt, President of CIEH, said: “Whether you run a hairdressing salon or a clothing shop, it is important to take a few simple steps to prevent the risks prior to business re-opening by flushing through water systems — especially any water tanks ― at the appropriate temperatures.”

For more information see the CIEH guide, Legionnaires’ Disease: Lockdown Risks and Reopening Safely and your Legionnaires’ Disease topic.