Swim England

A nation swimming

‘Pools and leisure centres must not be pushed to the back of the queue again’

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson issues an impassioned plea to the Prime Minister.

In a week’s time, we should all have a clearer indication from Boris Johnson on how the national lockdown restrictions will be eased.

There has been a lot of speculation in the media about what will be reopening when and why certain industries should be given priority over others.

Last June, we were all shocked and devastated to see pools and leisure centres remain closed while other areas vital to the UK’s economy, such as non-essential shops and the hospitality sector, were allowed to reopen as the first national lockdown was eased.

We hope that Mr Johnson does not go down this route again and ignore a sector which can play a key role in the fight against coronavirus.

For several months, we have been campaigning loudly to the Government on the importance of facilities and that’s why I am calling on the Prime Minister to prioritise pools and leisure this time around as part of the first stages of easing of lockdown.

You may have seen in the Sunday Times this weekend an article headlined ‘open pools before pubs to boost health and sink the virus’.

I appreciate there is a huge clamour from each individual industry to reopen at the earliest available opportunity.

However, swimming pools and leisure centres are a key weapon in the fight against coronavirus. A fitter nation is a healthier nation and daily exercise is essential to achieving that goal.

For many, swimming pools are the only way they can get active due to a range of debilitating health conditions that prevent them from simply going for a long walk, run or a bike ride.

We are also gathering evidence about the positive impact swimming will have for those suffering from post-Covid symptoms.

These issues need to be carefully considered before making a judgement call that exercising indoors is not safe.

We have the guidance in place to ensure pools ARE safe and well-controlled environments and the World Health Organisation has repeatedly stated that the virus does not transmit through the water while swimming.

Figures from Public Health England also show that pools are associated with an incredibly low percentage of transmissions – with only 0.17 per cent from more than 2.6 million coronavirus cases recorded in the space of almost six months mentioning swimming ‘between seven and three days prior to symptom onset’.

Played our part

Even then, Public Health England has acknowledged that ‘this was the time period when they were most likely to have picked up the infection but does not infer that transmission occurred during the event’.

Therefore, keeping pools closed as lockdown eases would be a travesty.

We understood the rationale behind the decision to close them after Christmas as the NHS was under extreme pressure – so we played our part and supported the measures to reduce the spread of infection in our communities.

Now, though, as the roadmap is about to be finalised, swimming pools and leisure centres must not be pushed to the back of the queue again.

Please, Mr Johnson, carefully consider our cries and take note of the overwhelming waves of support it has from thousands and thousands of our members, the millions of recreational swimmers up and down the country, our past and present Olympians and Paralympians and the countless celebrities, doctors, physical and mental health charities and sporting organisations.

Like many, I am looking forward to enjoying a gin and tonic and a lovely meal with my family and friends at the pub.

However, pools and indoor leisure should not be behind the pubs in reopening when they can truly aid the recovery of the nation from this dreadful pandemic.

How you can help

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 22 February, Swim England has updated its lobbying letter which can be downloaded and sent to your MP.

There is also suggested social posts that can be used so you can let the Prime Minister and key Government officials your views.

Check out the campaign materials here.