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‘Let pools play part in shared fight against coronavirus as we emerge from lockdown’

Swim England has pleaded with the Government to allow swimming pools and leisure centres to ‘play their part in the shared fight against coronavirus’ when the second national lockdown comes to an end.

In a letter today sent to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has reiterated the call for facilities to be classed as essential services which are allowed to open under any tiered restrictions imposed in the future.

She has urged Mr Jenrick to take note of a Government report which stated that closing leisure centres will ‘only have a low to moderate impact on reducing the transmission rate of coronavirus yet risks increasing mental and physical health inequalities’.

Pools across England were shut on Thursday 5 November and are due to remain closed until at least Wednesday 2 December.

The Government is currently reviewing the tier restrictions and Mr Jenrick would be at the heart of discussions with local authorities about what councils will be allowed to open under any new measures introduced.

In the letter to Mr Jenrick, Jane said: “We are writing to you regarding the current review of the Covid tier system in England as we approach the end of the second lockdown.

“We appreciate the incredibly difficult situation facing the Government and support measures to reduce the spread of infection in our communities. However we believe that leisure centres and swimming pools should remain open in any tier levels as we emerge from the second lockdown.

“Swimming pools are well managed, chlorinated, controlled environments where the risk of transmission can be successfully mitigated.

“The Government’s own published analysis states that the closure of indoor leisure centres will have a ‘low to moderate’ impact on Covid transmission, with a potential reduction in R of ‘up to 0.1’.

“However, it will have a number of negative impacts, including ‘potentially increasing health inequalities’, the ‘risk of increasing mental health problems’ and limiting ‘access to exercise’.

Devastating for so many

“The Government has itself repeatedly stressed the importance of being active to help in the fight against Covid-19 yet Sport England research showed that activity levels dropped substantially during the first lockdown.

“For many people with a range of health conditions, exercising on land is simply not an option and the water offers them the only real opportunity to be active.

“Closing pools in the return to the tiered approach therefore risks widening health inequalities in the country and will have long-term public health implications.

“Thousands of pools up and down the country have been operating in a Covid-secure way, offering the opportunity for aquatics clubs, swim schools and hundreds of thousands of people of all ages to be active in the water and improve their health and wellbeing.

“Losing this opportunity would be devastating for so many, as well as for the tens of thousands of people employed in swimming across the country.

“For the sake of our clubs that partake in all our sports, members, operators, swim schools, coaches, teachers, people of all ages learning to swim and those that simply enjoy recreational aquatic activity on a regular basis, we urge the Government to recognise that leisure centres are an essential service.

“We therefore urge you to allow swimming pools to remain open in all tier levels to play their part in our shared fight against Covid-19 as the country returns to the more localised approach following the second national lockdown.”

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