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Closing swimming pools in new lockdown would be a mistake, Government told

Closing swimming pools and leisure centres in any new lockdown measures to help combat the spread of coronavirus would be a mistake, the Government has been told.

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, stressing the importance of pools to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

Research carried out by ukactive has shown the prevalence of coronavirus in pools, leisure centres and gyms is ‘extremely low’ with only 78 confirmed cases out of 22 million visits between 25 July and 13 September.

In her letter, Jane said: “Swim England wholeheartedly supports appropriate and proportionate action to help slow the spread of the virus and protect our NHS.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has rightly stressed the importance of physical activity in helping people deal, both physically and mentally, with the new way of life.

“We are confident that swimming pools remain well-managed spaces, with numerous risk control measures in place, that will be at the forefront of the nation’s recovery from Covid-19.

“In our view, it would therefore be a mistake to close swimming pools in any future additional lockdown measures.”

Swimming pools, leisure centres and gyms are following strict guidance in order to remain open, ensuring social distancing among staff and customers, proper ventilation throughout and comprehensive cleanliness protocols.

Vital community facilities

The ukactive data was collated from more than 1,500 facilities – with the number of cases per 100,000 people being measured at 0.34.

It showed the reported cases represented incidents where public health authorities informed operators of a positive result within a certain time period of a user visiting a facility – rather than indicating transmission in the leisure centre environment specifically.

The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) has also advised that chlorine, which can break down chemical bonds of bacteria and viruses, could be an effective way to minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19 in pools.

Jane added: “Swimming pools are vital community facilities that help support the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of people across the country, as well as our swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming clubs and the swim schools that teach our children how to be safe in the water for the rest of their lives.

“We have produced detailed guidance and pool operators have taken a number of steps to minimise the risk of transmission and ensure that swimming pools are a safe environment in the current circumstances.

“I therefore hope that the Government will recognise how essential swimming pools are and not order them to close again as they seek to stop the further spread of the virus.”