Swim England

A nation swimming


Swim England/Institute of Swimming Coronavirus (Covid-19) FAQs

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 22 February outlining the roadmap out of the national lockdown, with the return of outdoor pools and venues from 29 March and indoor pools from April, we will update our FAQs based on the latest guidance provided by the Government as soon as possible. The new FAQs will be published on this page as soon as possible.

We will then continue to update the below on an ongoing basis where necessary.

Once published, if you have a question that is not answered below please do email guidance@swimming.org or clubguidance@swimming.org if your query relates to club activity.

We can’t wait to see our members and clubs back in the water soon.

Coronavirus FAQs

Click or tap one of the topics below to head straight to those FAQs. Then click or tap the panels to reveal the answer to each question.

All the dates referenced in this article are the ones stated by the Government as the earliest dates these activities may resume from. The Government has said it is possible dates may have to be moved back depending on the Covid situation in the country at the time.

Outdoor pools, lidos and open water venues can reopen for all activities from 29 March and can be used by people in line with the wider social contact limits. (This is the rule of 6 or with one other household). You can go swimming with 5 other people or one other household but everyone from different households will need to socially distance at all times.

Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s - can also restart and will not be subject to the gatherings limits, but should be compliant with guidance issued by national governing bodies.

Indoor pools can reopen for informal individual use, or for use by a single household, in Step 2 (from 12 April) for all ages.

At this point all children’s activities can resume, so learn to swim classes and club sessions, across all disciplines, for under 18s will be able to resume.

Club sessions and group exercise classes in the water for over 18s cannot resume until Step 3 (from 17 May).

The Government have confirmed that people who were 17 on 31 August 2020 but have subsequently turned 18/will turn 18, are able to resume organised activities such as club sessions from Step 2 (currently scheduled for April) and will not have to wait until Step 3 (currently scheduled for May).

As long as it is part of a formally organised club session, land training sessions can take place outdoors from 29 March and do not need to follow the rule of 6. All participants who are not from the same household should socially distance at all times throughout. Land training indoors for under 18s from 12 April will need to adhere to a limit of 15 people per group.

People who have been told to self-isolate should follow the following NHS guidance on self-isolating.

Yes – disabled participants will be able to take part in organised sporting activities, both indoors and outdoors, from 29 March. Sport England’s FAQs have more information.

Formally organised activities such as club sessions or learn to swim sessions can take place in any number outdoors.

Indoors, formally organised activities for over 18s cannot resume until Step 3 (17 May). Under 18 groups are restricted to 15 people (Under 5s do not count towards this number) but multiple groups can use a pool at any one time (space and ventilation allowing) as long as distance is maintained between groups.

Adult learn to swim sessions are restricted to 1-1 indoors in Step 2.

Informal activity may only be done by individuals or individual households/support bubbles indoors. Outdoors they can be done in the rule of 6.

School swimming lessons can resume for all pupils who have returned to face to face learning from 8 March. Schools without their own pool can travel to use available external facilities for these lessons in line with government guidance.

DfE guidance states that schools should “Teach an ambitious and broad curriculum in all subjects” therefore we hope to see schools recognising the importance of learning how to swim and about water safety for their pupils.

These sessions can resume outdoors from 29 March.

Indoors, 1:1 coaching is fine from Step 2 as the coach is exempt for work purposes.

Yes you can swim in a public outdoor place such as the sea.

The Government guidance states:


You should minimise time spent outside your home, but you can leave your home to exercise. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

You can exercise in a public outdoor place:

  • by yourself
  • with the people you live with
  • with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
  • in a childcare bubble where providing childcare
  • or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household

This includes but is not limited to running, cycling, walking, and swimming. Personal training can continue one-on-one unless everyone is within the same household or support bubble.

Public outdoor places include:

  • parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
  • public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • playgrounds
  • Outdoor sports venues must close, for example:
  • tennis courts
  • golf courses
  • swimming pools

Open water swimming is a fantastic activity, however it is important to ensure anyone considering going open water swimming (particularly at this time of year) is aware of how to do so safely.

If you’re thinking of heading to the open water you can read some helpful tips here.

Unfortunately it is not as simple as that.

British Swimming is the organisation designated by UK Sport that determines elite swimmers (all sports) regarding COVID. As per their guidelines, British Swimming is the organisation responsible for supporting athletes leading up to and including the Olympic Games. This means that any swimmer (all sports) defined as elite must be agreed with British Swimming who in turn have to provide a rationale to UK Sport for this definition.

Following extensive discussions with British Swimming, we have been able to secure an extension to the list, classifying more swimmers as “elite” and therefore exempt from the restrictions on training.

These athletes are still required to train in designated covid secure elite training venues that are administered and overseen by British Swimming. The government guidance for returning to elite training states that “whilst some athletes, such as swimmers or divers, may normally use public venues, under the current rules only official elite training venues can be used.” This means that any venue to be utilised must be assessed and meet strict standards in terms of protocols and procedures.

The additional swimmers that will be added to the elite list is more than can be accommodated at the existing elite training venues. We are therefore working with additional venues to open a small number of new, geographically-dispersed, Return to Training venues. We will seek to do this as soon as possible as part of our ongoing efforts to get as many people back in the water as possible.

If the same rules apply following the national lockdown as they did before then elite athletes can train as members of their club in their sessions where local restrictions allow it. When restrictions (for instance for an 18 plus athlete in tier 3) exist, elite athletes aged 18 plus can only train in a secure COVID venue approved by British Swimming. In some instances the secure environment may be a separate part of the pool to the club and in these cases the elite athletes cannot socialise, enter or exit with the club swimmers etc.

We know this will not cater for all Swim England members and are fully aware that there are many others at all levels of the sport who would love to be back in the water. We recognise that this will be particularly hard for those close to selection for squads but we have to work within the parameters set out by Government. We will be doing everything possible to enable all of our swimmers to get back into the water when restrictions are lifted.

With the current lockdown all competitive activity is suspended until further notice.

As the lockdown ends and pools re-open, we will reactivate the Return to Competition Framework which provides the structure for a phased return to competition in swimming. Similarly, the Leadership Groups for all disciplines will be monitoring the situation closely and developing plans for the safe return of athletes to competition as the situation allows.

Yes. From 29 March, you can travel to exercise and take part in informal and organised sport, where necessary. You should not stay away from home overnight for sport and physical activity and the government state you should minimise travel wherever possible.

No. Spectators are not currently permitted in any indoor or outdoor sport facility as part of Step 2 (12 April). They are only allowed on public land at present (e.g parks) where they must adhere to social gathering limits either in groups of six or two households.

This does not apply to carers for people with disabilities, or adults needed to supervise under-18s in a safeguarding role. Where it is necessary for them to be present, supervising adults should not mix with others from outside their household or support bubble.

The Government are using the Equality Act definition, which states that:

(1)A person (P) has a disability if—
(a)P has a physical or mental impairment, and
(b)the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

A long-term effect means something that has affected you or is likely to affect you for at least a year.

More details can be found here.

Citizens Advice has an explainer here.