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Returning to Pools Guidance FAQs

We have put together a series of Returning to Pools Guidance FAQs to help those with questions about our recent guidance.

Head to our Returning to Pools Guidance page to download the latest core guidance documents for clubs, users, pool operators, swimming lessons, and community swimming.

We also have a series of more general Coronavirus (Covid-19) FAQs, which have been updated with the latest advice and information throughout the pandemic.

Returning to Pools Guidance FAQs


Click or tap one of the topics below to head straight to those FAQs. Then click or tap the panels to reveal the answer to each question.

You’ve said you’ll update the guidance. How will we know when this has happened and what’s changed?

The front page of each document will have the date of publication and version on it, and changes will be highlighted at the back of each document for ease of reference.

Why are teachers told to teach from the side but parents are allowed in the water?

It is important to minimise the number of people in the water to ensure social distancing is maintained as much as possible, which is why we are encouraging teachers to teach from the poolside wherever possible.

However, teachers and parents may enter the water as long as they maintain social distancing. Parents who are supporting their child in the water should only support their own child and will need to ensure they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Swim England ran some free training sessions to help swim teachers be ready to resume activities following the new guidance, covering topics like teaching from the poolside and effective communication. You can watch recordings of these webinars.

Is it feasible to teach lower stages in deep water if we need to make more use of pool space to allow for social distancing?

Yes, although additional teacher training will need to be in place to ensure safe delivery. You can watch recordings of free training sessions Swim England on such topics.

We would advise letting your customers know if their children are going to now be taught in a different depth of water.

When can we get back in the water?

Outdoor swimming pools were able to reopen from Saturday 11 July and indoor pools from 25 July. Some pools may not be ready to open as soon as they are allowed.

It will also be the case that when swimming pools are allowed to reopen, many will not be able to do so for financial reasons and that is why we continue to lobby the Government for additional support for swimming pools. Swimmers and clubs should check with their local operator about the opening arrangements for their pool.

Why are there different bather loads for different activities?

Maximum bather occupancy cannot be determined by just using a single number and applying that to all activities. The guidance details the minimum water space needed in the strictest of controlled settings. The guidance document explains what the key risk factors are – distance and time.

The activity being undertaken has an effect on how you control distance and time, therefore a minimum of 6 m2 would be in a setting where you can control distance and limited the time at which participants come close. This would be for example an aquacise class, where movements are led by the instructor with distance being controlled and the time at which participants are in close proximity to each other can be eliminated completely.

Are you sure that cleaning equipment in pool water is sufficient?

Until a vaccination or treatment for Covid-19 is found there are always risks when undertaking any activity. Swimming pools are well managed spaces with numerous risk control measures in place.

The World Health Organisation states that: “Conventional, centralised water treatment methods that utilise filtration and disinfection should inactivate the Covid-19 virus. Other human coronaviruses have been shown to be sensitive to chlorination and disinfection with ultraviolet (UV) light.”

The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) state: “The available evidence shows that the physical effect of the pool water and an appropriate relationship between free chlorine and pH value should inactivate the virus within 15-30 seconds. The dilution of virus in the pool water volume will also reduce the risk of exposure and transmission.”

Furthermore, Swim England’s Returning to Pools guidance and PWTAG technical notes have been produced in consultation with Public Health England, supporting the view that coronavirus would be inactivated at the levels of chlorine used in swimming pools.

Should I shower at the pool or not?

Showering before you swim is a vital contribution to ensuring the free chlorine in the pool water is available for disinfection of SARS-CoV-2 (rather than being used to clean dirt off swimmers). We are also encouraging swimmers to shower at home before arriving at the pool to reduce the time spent in shower/changing areas.

Shouldn’t lockers just be closed at the moment?

This will be a decision for individual operators to make based on their individual facilities. Closing all lockers is an option however it also increases usage of those lockers left open and potentially could result in an increased likelihood of transmission inside that locker.

Whatever arrangement, it is vital that people continue to adhere to social distancing in the locker/changing areas.

What does “beach style” mean. Do I have to drive home in my wet stuff?

What we mean by “beach style turn up and swim” is that, wherever possible, arrive at the pool already wearing your swimming costumes underneath your clothes and having showered at home. We are encouraging swimmers to do this to minimise the time spent in changing areas. Similarly we are encouraging swimmers to shower at home after their swim if possible, again to minimise the time spent in the changing and shower areas after a swim.

However, private changing facilities may still be available for swimmers both pre and post swim.

Should people with health conditions/disabilities return to the pool?

Absolutely, we know that swimming is a fantastic activity for people with a range of health conditions / disabilities. However, those in the high risk and moderate risk groups should consider the latest government advice before returning to the pool.

People categorised as “high risk” or who have concerns may wish to consult with their medical practitioner before returning to the water.

Can people who are shielding return to swimming?

People who are shielding should follow the latest government guidance.

The government allows for groups of six to meet outdoors, how does this apply to group training for clubs?

Swim England has updated its recommendations on land training and open water club activity following further changes to Government guidelines.

Six adults from different households are able to meet in an outside environment to undertake land training, allowing for a coach to participant ratio of one to five.

For U18s, that has now increased to 15 plus coaches in the latest update issued by Swim England on 21 July.

The club and coach must continue to risk assess their sessions to ensure that the appropriate coach/ athlete ratios are in place relative to the participants and the nature of the activity.

You can find our guidance around returning to land training here.

You recommend double width lanes but can we have less people in a single lane?

Use of double width lanes would be an example of how a facility can operate with the strictest of control measures. Single lane use is now acceptable however the risk of transmission could be increased therefore it’s important to risk assess against this.

Swim England guidance shows example for both double and single lane use as it enables operators to increase or decrease their risk controls based on local circumstances such as the R rate.

Your diagram shows ten people in a lane, isn’t that too many?

The diagrams are for illustrative purposes, it will be for individual facilities/clubs to determine the appropriate number of swimmers in a lane for a particular activity to ensure the risk of transmission is managed.

It is feasible to have 10 swimmers in a double lane in certain situations, but each individual activity would need to be risk assessed.

Why are you asking each lane to swim in the same direction?

By having each lane follow the same direction of travel, this will mean swimmers are unable to swim side by side, minimising the risk of potential transmission of Covid-19.

Your guidance only considers tank pools, what about free form pools?

The guidance covers both free form pools and tank style pools. Any diagrams are for illustrative purposes and it is not possible to provide these for every single pool shape in the country. Free form pools will need to consider the available water space and individual activity being undertaken in it to determine the number of participants that can be safely accommodated in the same way that operators of a tank pool would need to.

Should Face masks/coverings be worn in the pool?

People should NOT wear masks/coverings when swimming, as these may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably.

When the mask/covering becomes wet it makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms. The most important preventative measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance.

Government guidance states that face coverings are not required in exercise and sports venues but people should check with their local pool whether they are encouraging attendees to wear a face covering upon entering the facility before heading through to poolside.

Does Swim England recommend that age restrictions are placed on any sessions?

Swim England is encouraging operators to make their programmes as inclusive as possible and does not recommend introducing any new age restrictions on sessions (children under the age of eight should always be accompanied in the water and changing areas during unprogrammed swimming sessions by a parent/guardian). However, operators can use their own discretion to temporarily adjust any age limits should they feel necessary, in light of the government guidelines on social distancing.

Does Swim England advise against the use of any strokes during lane swimming?

The Swim England Guidance for Users does not place any restrictions on the use of certain strokes during lane swimming. Clubs should plan their number of swimmers and make the necessary judgements based on the training plan and their ability to facilitate social distancing guidelines throughout the session including during rest periods.

Swimmers are just advised to think about moving lanes if they change to a slower stroke during their session.

I live in an area where a local lockdown has been enforced, can I continue to travel to areas outside of the restrictions?

Unfortunately not, rules surrounding travel and movements of the local lockdown should be followed.

Our coach lives in an area where a local lockdown has been enforced, can they continue to travel to areas outside of the restrictions?

As they are travelling to a place of work, government guidelines class this as essential travel and therefore is permissible. The club and coach should risk assess this situation and also communicate with the operator to ensure they are also in agreement.

Our Coach is a front line worker for the NHS and comes into contact with Covid-19 patients, are they able to continue coaching at the club?

It is likely the coaches other employer has sufficient control measures in place to mitigate any risk. The necessary health survey, self-declaration and relevant risk assessments should be completed by the club and individuals concerned.

What is the protocol if somebody within a bubble/lane shows Covid-19 symptoms?

If a person in a ‘bubble/lane’ shows symptoms related to Covid-19 they are asked to remove themselves from the session and go for a test. They will need to stay away from the session until the results of that test are known. The others swimmers in the lane can continue to swim until the results are known. If it is positive the entire lane will then isolate for 14 days. If negative the swimmer will return.

What is the protocol for informing club members if someone within a squad tests positive for Covid-19?

It’s the responsibility of individuals/parents to contact Track and Trace and provide them with details of any people they have been in contact with at less than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes. The club is responsible for keeping a record of all attendees at sessions and these details should be provided to Track and Trace upon request if the subject is unable to provide these themselves.

I have received my test results back and they are ‘inconclusive’, what should I do?

If you had a test because you had symptoms, you must keep self-isolating and have another test within 5 days of your symptoms starting.

If you had a test but have not had any symptoms, you do not need to self-isolate while you wait to get another test. People you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, do not need to self-isolate.

I have received my test results back and they are ‘inconclusive’, what should I do?

If you had a test because you had symptoms, you must keep self-isolating and have another test within 5 days of your symptoms starting.

If you had a test but have not had any symptoms, you do not need to self-isolate while you wait to get another test. People you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, do not need to self-isolate.

Further information is available on the NHS website.

Is there a minimum age for the Covid liaison role?

Given the responsibility of this role, we recommend Covid Liaison Officers should be a minimum of 18 years old.

What is the guidance for under 9 year olds in a club setting with parents being able to attend if it is a no spectator session?

Clubs should at all times follow the requirements set out in Wavepower 22-23 but should also discuss this further with the facility they use as requirements can vary from operator to operator.

In addition, clubs should be considering their risk assessments and ensuring children are safely reunited after sessions in line with any Covid-19 restrictions.

Is it possible for 2 or more clubs to share the same water time?

This is acceptable however clubs must work together to ensure their risk assessments are aligned and all clubs are following the same protocols in line with the facility requirements.

Should the Return to Training declaration and health survey forms be completed before every session?

No, these only need to be signed once.

Can I return to training if I’ve been on holiday abroad?

Government guidelines should be followed at all times with regards to any quarantine regulations following a holiday abroad. A list of countries exempt from quarantine requirements can be found on the Government website.

Why does the Covid-19 Lead Officer not require Safeguarding or DBS?

Covid Liaison Officers should not be left in a supervisory position of young people and therefore wouldn’t require a DBS check or Safeguarding training. If an individual is operating as a Covid Liaison Officer in a dual role capacity, Wavepower requirements must be followed.

Does the guidance state anything in particular regarding BAME athletes?

BAME groups are at higher risk but it remains unclear if this is genetic, related to co-morbid disease or behavioural (including community). The same rules apply for everyone but their risk is higher and it is a personal choice to partake in activities under the current scientifically supported operational guidance. No further adjustments need to be made. This is also true of those older and with other co-morbid disease. There is no such thing as no risk with covid and everyone doing anything has to strike a balance.

Can an athlete train with more than 1 club at the same time?

Ultimately if a child usually swims for 2 clubs in any one week and this is still able to happen safely then this is acceptable with the understanding that the child remains in the same bubble at each of the clubs and that they are following the club guidance.

What are the current guidelines around open water swimming?

Swim England has updated its recommendations on open water club activity following further recent changes to Government guidelines.

Six adults from different households are able to meet in an outside environment to undertake outdoor activities, allowing for a coach to participant ratio of one to five.

For U18s, that has now increased to 15 plus coaches in the latest update issued by Swim England on 21 July.

The club and coach must continue to risk assess their sessions to ensure that the appropriate coach/athlete ratios are in place relative to the participants and the nature of the activity.

You can find our guidance around returning to open water club activities here.

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