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Jane Nickerson: Why close pools now when science shows the risk is extremely low?

Chief executive Jane Nickerson on what Swim England is planning next as the country heads into a second national lockdown.

The Prime Minister’s latest coronavirus announcement was certainly inevitable… the impact of the statement nevertheless another huge blow to our sports, clubs, members, coaches and teachers.

When Boris Johnson announced leisure facilities would shut once again as part of a month-long lockdown to help slow the spread of coronavirus, my overriding emotion was one of frustration and extreme disappointment.

Leisure facilities in regions that had been placed under the strictest tier three restrictions prior to this second national lockdown were allowed to open – so the pertinent question is why close them now?

For months, the Government has said it would be led by the science – and for that reason it’s right that new measures are being introduced to help prevent our NHS being overwhelmed this winter.

I, like everyone in the country, hope they have the desired effect and we see the number of cases start to fall.

However, why does indoor leisure have to close down when the science has also shown that the risk of catching coronavirus in swimming pools, leisure centres and gyms is extremely low?

Was that carefully considered by the Government before the decision was taken to close leisure facilities?

It’s something we’ll certainly be asking the powers that be as we continue to do everything we can to ensure pools are allowed to open as soon as possible.

For many, being in the water will be their only access to exercise for a variety of reasons.

Others rely on aquatic activity to help their mental health.

This is why we’ll keep on fighting on behalf of the Swim England family and the millions of people who are struggling, like us, to understand the reasoning behind this latest closure of pools.

Further clarification

There are many things that need further clarification following Mr Johnson’s statement and we will be seeking the answers as soon as we can in the coming days.

Is school swimming – a key aspect of the national curriculum – allowed to continue as schools are remaining open? Can swim schools with access to their own private pools be allowed to stage lessons for family bubbles?

We’d love to be able to give the answers now but there was a distinct lack of detail on what is allowed in the immediate aftermath of the Prime Minister’s announcement.

Please bear with us as we look into all of your queries. We’ll look to update you all as soon as is practically possible.

One thing is certain is that we will be lobbying the Government to pledge further financial support to the operators and facilities that will be severely impacted again by this lockdown.

Around 20 per cent of public pools are still closed following the first lockdown – and some of those that had reopened are struggling to make ends meet as social distancing measures have seen programmes scaled back.

Rest assured, we will not go away and will keep pleading and shouting about the #SaveLeisure and #SaveOurSports campaign until we have a successful resolution that will see everyone back enjoying the sports that they love.

In the meantime, please stay safe.

Jane M Nickerson

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