Swim England

A nation swimming

'We have to be among the first sectors to reopen as evidence proves pools are safe'

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson on the ongoing fight to reopen pools ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement.

The past year has been hard for everyone and we all dream of a return to some sort of normality.

Now, with the vaccination programme in full swing and the Prime Minister set to announce his roadmap out of the third national lockdown, that might seem tantalisingly close.

There has been a lot of speculation in the past week or so in the national media on what Boris Johnson will say on Monday 22 February.

Ahead of this announcement, we have been active on behalf of our swimming, diving, water polo, and artistic swimming members, our swim schools, and operators.

We have:

  • Lobbied the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office directly
  • Been in frequent contact with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and sit on their Sport Working Group
  • Ahead of the Government reviewing the data to inform their decisions around reopening, we submitted evidence focusing on issues like ventilation, effects of chlorinated water, social distancing measures in our guidance, transmission stats attributed to pools and the Health and Wellbeing impact of swimming to re-emphasise how safe our activities are
  • Secured a number of parliamentary questions around swimming to keep up the pressure on behalf of swimming
  • Actively promoted a parliamentary petition calling for pools to be opened first as we come out of lockdown which has achieved more than 220,000 signatures
  • Encouraged our members to lobby their own MPs and provided template letters to assist this.
  • Worked with the chair and members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming, who have also lobbied the Prime Minister directly on our behalf.
  • In partnership with other organisations such as UK Active and others, we have continued to work to secure media coverage to keep the attention on swimming pools and to promote the importance of reopening them

If the whispers in the media are correct, it seems that only schools are likely to reopen on March 8.

It’s right that schools do open first. I’ve said before that youngsters were at risk of becoming the forgotten victims of this virus and it’s key they get back into a routine as soon as possible.

For many, that will include going swimming, diving or taking part in artistic swimming and water polo activities.

In an ideal world, they would all be allowed to do that as well when schools reopen.

Realistically, if the media reports are true, this might not be the case.

Light at the end of the tunnel

However, it’s imperative that indoor pools and leisure centres open again before non-essential shops and the hospitality industry.

If we’re among the first sectors to be allowed to reopen after schools, that will be a victory for us – especially after being pushed to the back of the queue following the first national lockdown.

Failure to see this happen would be unacceptable and lead to us ramping up the pressure on the Government once again.

We have been extremely vocal in the past 11 months on why our multi-functional pools are safe and controlled environments that are essential to society for so many reasons.

Our argument is sound. We’re not simply saying it’s not fair that we’re still closed.

The Government has continually insisted they will be guided by the science and the data. If that’s the case, we have to be among the first sectors to reopen as we have robust, scientific evidence to prove pools are safe and provide unique benefits for people of all ages.

I, like millions of other people, am desperate to go swimming again.

Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and, hopefully, we’ll all be back in the water again sooner rather than later.