It's been months since people in the UK have been able to go to their local swimming pool for a quick dip, or to take children to lessons with a swimming instructor.
For those keen to get back in the water in England, we can safely say that won't be possible on 4 July, when other previously closed services like pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and theatres are set to open again.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of the decision to keep pools closed: "Close proximity venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools and spas will need to remain closed for now, as will bowling alleys and water parks.
"But the business and culture secretaries will establish taskforces with public health experts and these sectors to help them become Covid-secure and reopen as soon as possible."
While we don't know exactly when swimming pools will reopen in the UK, here's the information we have so far about a possible date and what services will look like when they're back up and running.
When will swimming pools reopen?
The answer to that currently is: it's not clear.
However, following the government's announcement about 4 July openings, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport took to social media to say the government hopes to open gyms and leisure facilities in England in mid-July.
GYMS— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) June 23, 2020
Many people keen to hit the gym & keeping Britain fit is key in Covid battle
We’ve made lots of progress & I know steps businesses have taken to make their spaces & equipment safe
Subject to public health, our aspiration is to reopen gyms & leisure facilities in mid-July
In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, ministers have said they don't plan to open leisure centre facilities until later stages of their lockdown easing plans are reached.
How will swimming pools change when they reopen?
As is the case with the reopening date, that remains unclear right now. However, Swim England, the sport's governing body has released new guidelines giving advice to pool operators when it comes to running a swimming facility while adhering to social distancing rules.
The rules set out by Swim England also give advice to customers on returning to pools, whether that's in the form of swimming lessons or more informal swimming sessions.
"When pools reopen, it will not be a case of ‘business as usual’ and we know that things will have to be different, but 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'," said Jane Nickerson, Chief Executive of Swim England.
"Swim England will continue to push for more financial support for the swimming sector to ensure we can all continue to enjoy the sports we love."
The rules warn people not to attend swimming pools if they have any symptoms of coronavirus, including temperature, cough or loss of taste or smell.
The guidelines advise operators that they must control the capacity of pools and may choose to run using bookable sessions only to help with that.
"Operators should implement an effective method of controlling and recording the numbers of pool users. There are various ways to do this, such as coloured band systems, locker tokens/keys, access kiosks, pre-booked admissions and turnstiles," the rules state.
The rules suggest 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 poolside.
This would involve swimmers arriving ready changed (costume under clothing) and showering directly before leaving home.
The rules also suggest:
- Additional sanitation should be available.
- Screens between reception staff and customers are preferable.
- There should be 2m distance between people in queues for entering.
- Operators should consider double width lanes when setting up for lane swimming.
- Operators should consider asking participants not to overtake whilst lane swimming in order to comply with social distancing measures.
For people who want to swim, the rules suggest participants should adhere to government guidance on social distancing when walking or waiting on poolside, as well as when in the water. (Participants from the same household can participate amongst themselves without social distancing as per government guidelines.)
It's suggested that, where possible, participants should bring their own equipment and all equipment should be sanitised before and after each activity. This can be achieved simply and effectively by rinsing equipment in the pool.
The rules suggest that in the case of swimming lessons, teachers should deliver these from poolside.
It's also encouraged that only one parent/carer per child should be allowed to supervise their child during swimming lessons.
For now though, we're still waiting to see what the future looks like for swimmers. Watch this space for more news.
The above information is correct at the time of publishing. For the latest information, visit the gov.uk website.
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