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'Multi-functional pools must reopen to help reduce the risk of unnecessary deaths'

Multi-functional swimming pools must be among the first to reopen as the national lockdown is eased to reduce the risks of hundreds of unnecessary deaths every year – and help save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.

Swim England has called for ‘valuable’ pools not to be pushed to the back of the reopening queue due to the unique benefits they offer the entire population.

Both youngsters and adults have missed out on potentially life-saving learn to swim lessons during the enforced closures, while more and more people who use aquatic activity to manage a range of health conditions are being forced to turn to their GPs for treatment.

Statistics from the National Water Safety Forum/WAID showed 1,202 people died in accidental drownings in England between 2014 and 2019 – and Swim England is insisting pools are needed to play their part in helping prevent ‘avoidable heartache’ for families this summer.

Swim England will be raising awareness of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on children and young people and how crucial swimming lessons are as pools reopen to highlight the importance of learning to swim.

The recognised national governing body for swimming, diving, artistic swimming and water polo also fears the next generation of Olympic medal winning athletes will also be lost forever if pools are not given priority over non-essential shops and hospitality in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s reopening plan.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said pools offered a wealth of value for all ages of society.

‘Essential and valuable’

“Pools are essential to everyday life,” she said. “Whether that is someone being taught a vital life skill or giving someone respite from living with chronic pain.

“Learning to swim can be the difference between a near miss and a tragedy occurring that would cause untold grief.

“Drowning is among the leading cause of accidental death in children and young people but it need not be. However, more and more families could be at risk of avoidable heartache if pools remain closed and learn to swim lessons cannot take place.

“Pools are so valuable. They teach us how to be safe in and around water and help us protect others who may be in danger. They give families the perfect opportunity to enjoy getting active together in a way that very few other indoor sports can and they help those battling with a range of debilitating health conditions which helps save the NHS and social care system more than £357 million a year.

“They are a stress reliever, helping people forget their worries and fears and boosting the mental health of countless individuals.

“They’ve helped create Olympians and world champions and provide untold joy to millions of people who enjoy competing in all our amazing sports.

“They’re multi-functional, essential, safe and controlled environments which need to be included at the front of the queue when it comes to easing the lockdown measures after schools have reopened.”

Jane also warned that many more pools could be at risk of permanent closure should they be forced to keep their doors shut for several more months.

“We’re hoping the Prime Minister will take our pleas on board and #OpenOurPools in the first wave,” she said.

“Around 200 pools had still not reopened following the first national lockdown and the longer they are all kept closed, the more worried we are that the financial strain will prove to be too much for operators.

“The Government will need to find the additional financial support to ensure that these facilities are not lost forever.

“Operators and facility owners have followed our Returning to the Pool guidance and put in place the necessary measures to ensure visitors are safe when using the pool – and the World Health Organisation has reiterated that the virus does not transmit through the water while swimming.

“Therefore, we cannot afford to delay the reopening as the cost to millions of lives and society in general will be immeasurable.”

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