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Swim England ’disappointed’ indoor leisure forced to close in second lockdown

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has expressed her disappointment that indoor leisure facilities are being forced to close in a second national lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this evening announced a four-week lockdown in England will begin in the early hours of Thursday 5 November – closing all indoor leisure facilities as part of the new restrictions being imposed until Wednesday 2 December.

While Jane agreed that stringent measures were needed to help slow the spread of Covid-19, she said it was frustrating that indoor leisure faced another month of closure – despite there being an ‘extremely low’ prevalence of the virus in facilities.

She also stressed that the Government would need to ‘dig deep’ and provide even more financial support to an industry that was still struggling to bounce back from the first lockdown.

Jane said: “Whilst I wholeheartedly support measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in our communities and commend the Government for taking decisive action, it is extremely disappointing and frustrating to see indoor leisure being forced to close again.

“We have consistently made the case that aquatic activity is both safe and a lifeline for many people in such uncertain times and that leisure centres should therefore be considered an essential service.

“Since the reopening of pools, leisure centres and gyms in July, we have seen that they are well-managed environments where the risk of transmission is low.

“For many people, the pool offers the only opportunity for them to be active – something that will be more important than ever during another lockdown.

“Additionally, there are fewer options available to people to exercise through the cold winter months than there were during the first, summer, lockdown.

“Therefore pools offer an invaluable place for people to be active and look after both their physical and mental wellbeing, which will be vital during the difficult months ahead.

“A second period of closure will push many facilities over the edge and there is the dangerous prospect of losing so many facilities for good.

Generation missing out

“To that extent, the Government must dig deep and find the necessary funding to ensure we don’t see swimming pools and other leisure facilities permanently close.

“If they don’t, we face the real risk of seeing a generation missing out on learning a vital life skill by learning to swim and enjoy the water safely, while our clubs and members will sadly not be able to take part in the sports they love.”

Two studies have shown that coronavirus is not wildly spreading in leisure facilities.

Research published by ukactive showed there had been only 78 confirmed Covid-19 cases among more than 22 million visits between 25 July and 13 September.

A more recent study by experts at Sheffield Hallam University analysed 62 million trips to gyms and leisure centres in 14 European countries since September.

The data showed there had been only 487 infections reported by operators in Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK – the equivalent of 0.78 cases per 100,000.

Jane added: “The science shows that swimming pools have extremely low risk of transmission and these facilities should be playing their part in helping our communities get through this pandemic.”