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Jane Nickerson: It makes no sense to prevent the safe opening of pools

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson reflects on the Government’s decision that swimming pools will not reopen on 4 July as initially indicated.

Like millions of other swimmers up and down the country, I have been left frustrated by the Government’s latest Covid-19 announcement which relaxed restrictions on pubs, cinemas, hairdressers and others, whilst ignoring the plight of leisure and sporting facilities.

Our detailed Returning to the Pool guidance has shown that pools can be well-managed spaces that are safe environments for users with chlorine-filled pools providing a sanitised environment.

We developed them working closely with Public Health England, leisure operators and key stakeholders, including medical professionals.

Alongside the leisure sector we have been working with the Government throughout June as part of their preparations for step three reopening. There was no indication that swimming pools would not be opened alongside the other businesses listed in step three. We published our detailed guidance with the Government’s knowledge on 15 June.

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has this afternoon indicated on social media that there is an aspiration to open gyms and leisure centres by mid-July. I have written to him for clarity on whether this includes swimming pools.

In response to the announcement today, we have created the #OpenOurPools campaign and I’d like to thank all the athletes, clubs and all the swim lovers that have supported it already.

How you can get involved

  • Write to your MP.
  • Post on social media.
  • Share our infographics.
  • Sign the petition.

Find out more and download our resources by clicking here.

Thank you to everyone who has signed our petition so far. We’ve created it to showcase the strength of feeling on this issue. More than 15,000 people have signed the petition already in the first few hours and we will be presenting it to the Government as part of our campaign.

During a health crisis, and at a time when the Government talks about the importance of physical activity, it makes no sense to prevent the safe opening of leisure facilities such as swimming pools, which enable people to be active and improve their physical and mental wellbeing. Swim England’s research has shown that swimming alone saves the NHS more than £350 million a year.

Additionally, millions of children continue to miss out on the opportunity to learn a vital life skill – a skill that may one day save their life.

Our network of clubs and swimmers have been patient, accepting the initial need to close pools. However it is hard to now accept that whilst close proximity activities such as hairdressing can reopen, swimming is neglected.

We have worked closely with swimming pool operators and public health experts to produce guidance showing how chlorine-filled swimming pools – which are controlled environments – can open safely.

Many of these facilities will not survive without Government support and the least they deserve is some certainty about when they can open their doors and start servicing their local communities once more. The longer pools are closed, the more facilities we will sadly see never reopening.

The cost to the nation’s health and wellbeing of keeping the pools closed longer than necessary is huge.

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