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Swim England reiterates open water safety advice if swimming in latest lockdown

Swim England has reiterated important open water safety advice after the Government confirmed swimming is allowed as a form of exercise in the third national lockdown.

Although indoor and outdoor pools across the country are currently closed, people can still go swimming in lakes, lochs, rivers and the sea if it’s close to their home.

However, the recognised national governing body has warned that the current cold snap sweeping the country means that even experienced open water swimmers should take extra care before considering taking a dip.

The Government guidance states that exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

You can exercise in a public outdoor place with the people you live with, members of a support bubble if you are legally permitted to form one and, when on your own, with one other person from another household.

Jon Glenn, Swim England Learn to Swim Director, said: “With pools being closed in the latest lockdown, we know people will be keen to go open water swimming.

“However, there are increased risks if you are not used to open water, especially at this time of year when the weather is particularly cold.

Things to consider before going open water swimming

Swim England has issued the following advice for anyone considering going open water swimming:

  • You need to be a competent swimmer.
  • Never swim alone in open water. The temperature and choppiness of the water can make things difficult.
  • Adhere to social distancing requirements throughout your swim, including arrival, changing and post-swim.
  • Let someone in your household know where you are, what you are doing and expected time to return.
  • Think about water temperature and the weather.
  • Open water is cold, so wear a wetsuit. They help insulate against the cold and keep you buoyant in open water.
  • All open water swimming should take place in water at 11 degrees or above, unless you are an experienced and competent cold water swimmer.
  • Look out for safety signs and online information/feedback. If a sign says ‘no swimming and/or ‘danger’, don’t swim there.
  • Plan your exit before you get into the water. Consider any currents, the tidal flow and wind direction.
  • Avoid weirs, locks and other structures.
  • If you get into difficulty in the water, don’t panic, stay calm and float on your back until you can control your breathing and then continue to swim once again.

“If you’ve never been swimming in open water, now is not the ideal time to try it out to get your swimming fix – as much as you might be tempted.

“Swimming in lakes, lochs, rivers and the sea is very different from the pool environment and even experienced open water swimmers would not go in open water without a wetsuit or on their own.

“It’s pleasing to see that open water swimming is allowed in the latest lockdown measures as we know there are huge mental and physical health benefits of swimming in open water that help a number of people.

“We’d just like to emphasise that people abide to the Government guidelines and all the risks are fully evaluated before getting into the water.

“It’s unlikely that there will be lifeguards on duty and we don’t want people to be putting further burden on our NHS in these challenging times.”

Swim England, British Triathlon and the Royal Life Saving Society UK published detailed open water swimming safety advice last May following the lifting of the first national lockdown.

It can be viewed on the SH2OUT website.