Swimming pools, gyms and other sports facilities are open again after the coronavirus lockdown.
The sector has convinced the Government that it is ready and has detailed measure in place.
For swimmers, these include:
No overtaking while swimming;
Rest areas outside the pool to avoid gatherings between lengths;
An option to arrive already changed into swimwear;
Two-metre social distancing throughout changing areas;
No more than one swimmer per six square metres of a pool;
Pools divided for family sessions so that each household has their own area.
Swimming is one of the biggest participation sports in the UK and, as well as being the main form of physical activity for many elderly people, there is concern that a generation of children are missing their mandatory opportunity to learn to swim as part of the primary school curriculum.
There are 5,000 public pools in England and there are fears that as many as 500 could close permanently due to lost income and the viability of reducing numbers and introducing social-distancing measures.
Swim England’s guidance is broken down into documents for users, operators, clubs, community facilities and instructors.
The “paramount” importance of social distancing is stressed throughout, with pool operators advised that they can “state with confidence that Covid-19 would not be transmissible through the water” if they are operating in line with usual standards of chlorine disinfectant.
However, it is stressed that an increased ratio of air to participants will lower risks and it is recommended that pool operators allow at least six square metres per participant during any aqua activity.
Sessions which involve more random movements, such as a public swimming session, will require a higher ratio than more controlled activities like aqua aerobics or lane swimming.
It is also suggested that double width lanes are considered and, in the diagrams that are provided, Swim England has no more than 10 swimmers in each lane of a 25-metre pool.
“Each lane should follow the same direction of travel, this will mean swimmers are unable to swim side by side, minimising the risk of potential transmission,” says the guidance. It also advises participants against overtaking and instead suggests that slower swimmers move to the edge of the lane at the end of a length “and turn your head away” to allow others to pass.
Other suggestions include configuring a pool for family sessions, so that each household has its own section or lane, as well as markings at the side of the pool so that lane swimmers can identify two-metre distances. Congregations will be discouraged at each end of the pool and a designated poolside area is suggested for those lane swimmers who might need to rest.
For entering and exiting a facility, it is suggested that two-metre spaces are marked out and that there is social distancing within changing areas.
“To mitigate the effect of this, facilities may want to consider a ‘beach style turn up and swim’ option to minimise time spent in the changing rooms or allow access straight to the poolside,” says the guidance. ‘Beach style turn up and swim’ is categorised as arriving ready to swim, or with a swimming costume beneath regular clothing, to reduce changing time.
“We have all been missing the water during the Covid-19 enforced closure of swimming pools,” said Jane Nickerson, Swim England’s chief executive. “For many of our members across all our disciplines, this will have been the longest period out of the water, which can take a toll on both our physical and mental wellbeing.
“Our network of clubs and swimmers have been patient, accepting the initial need to close pools. However it is hard to now accept that whilst close proximity activities such as hairdressing can reopen, swimming is neglected.”
Read more: When swimming pools open, will they be safe?