Coronavirus - when are swimming pools likely to re-open?

Jane McGuire

From Runner's World

It goes without saying, swimming is great for runners - it's an amazing form of cross training for those training for a half marathon or marathon, plus can help injured runners recover faster.

In the UK, in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered all leisure centres and gyms to shut on Friday 20 March. As the lockdown measures begin to ease in the UK, many will be wondering when pools are likely to re-open. Here's what we know so far:

When are swimming pools likely to re-open?

The Prime Minister revealed the government's plans for a 'roadmap' out of lockdown on Sunday 10 May. The initial changes allowed people to exercise more than once per day from Wednesday 15 May and from Monday 1 June, this has now been extended to include exercise with up to five other people, as long as you stay 2m apart from those not in your household.

The government have not yet confirmed when swimming pools and gyms are likely to re-open, but today Swim England have released robust guidance on the re-opening of pools.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England Chief Executive, said: 'Government guidance clearly states that pools in England cannot reopen before 4 July and it is still unknown whether that will be the date that this happens – that is a decision for the Government.'

Nickerson added today, 'When pools reopen, it will not be a case of ‘business as usual’ and we know that things will have to be different. However, if we are to play our part in protecting the NHS from another wave of Covid-19 admissions, it is important we follow the latest guidance and adjust to the new "normal".'

What do the guidelines say?

The new Swim England guidelines outline the precautions swimmers should take when returning to the pool:

  • You should not go to the pool if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • You should check your local pool's timetable and swimming guidelines before leaving the house.
  • You should aim to arrive at the pool ready to swim, with your swimming costume or swimming shorts on to minimise time spent in the changing room. Once you have finished your swim, you should leave. Shower at home pre and post swimming.
  • Take hand sanitiser with you and ensure any equipment or aids (eg floats/ kick boards) are clearly labelled as yours and cleaned before going to the pool.
  • At the pool, follow the facilities guidelines on the duration of your swim and social distancing measures when in the pool.
  • When it comes to overtaking in the pool, Swim England have said, 'Choose your lane using the fast, medium and slow signs and by watching those already swimming. Please do not overtake whilst swimming. Before pushing off at each turn, check to see if anyone faster is approaching.'
  • Wide strokes such as butterfly should be avoided when lanes get busy.
  • When resting, Swim England have shared the following advice, 'Whether stopping for a rest or catching your breath after completing your swim, please be mindful that others using the lane will want to keep on swimming without stopping; so keep yourself to the edge of the lane allowing others to turn at the wall, turning head away and allowing others to maintain social distancing measures.'

The full list of guidelines can be found on the Swim England website here.

What about outdoor pools?

At the moment, public outdoor pools will remain shut. The existing government guidelines state that pools cannot open before 4 July. The guidelines state that at present, 'you should avoid using paddling pools and private swimming pools with people outside of your household.'

Is it safe to go swimming - could COVID-19 be spread in the swimming pool?

Earlier in the outbreak of coronavirus, the The Pool Water Treatment and Advisory Group (PWTAG) said after consulting with Public Health England,

'We have checked with our national leads who confirm that coronavirus would be inactivated at the levels of chlorine used in swimming pools.'

'However, visitors to swimming pools are reminded to shower before using the pool, to shower on leaving the pool and to follow the necessary hygiene precautions when visiting public places to help reduce the risk of infection.'

The World Health Organisation recommended chlorination level of 15mg.min/litre is sufficient to kill non-enveloped viruses such as poliovirus, rotavirus and coxsackievirus, and an enveloped virus such as Covid-19 would be inactivated at even lower levels, the document says.

Can I go open water swimming?

From Wednesday 15 May, the relaxation of exercise rules means water sports such as lake or riving swimming, rowing, canoeing, sailing and angling can take place.

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