For outdoor swimmers who rely on swimming pools, whether to train and keep fit for open water events, to exercise, or to socialise with other swimmers, pools will have been one of the biggest losses of lockdown.
But as lockdown measures now begin to ease, there is hope for swimmers that pools could start to re-open from as early as July.
Following Swim England’s guidelines for swimming pools re-opening announced on 15 June, here’s everything we know so far.
When can pools re-open?
There is currently no fixed date for when pools will re-open.
On 10 May, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a three step “roadmap” out of lockdown, where he set out guidelines for when different sectors could expect to re-open.
Leisure centres were included in “Stage 3”, meaning that in theory pools could re-open from as early as 4 July.
In anticipation of this, Swim England released "Returning to Pools Guidance" on 15 June to help the aquatics sector prepare.
Jane Nickerson, Swim England Chief Executive, said: “Government guidance clearly states that pools in England cannot reopen before 4 July and it is still unknown whether that will be the date that this happens – that is a decision for the Government.
“However, we want to be in a position where the aquatic sector has clear, effective and high-quality guidance to support its preparation for reopening.”
What measures will be in place to ensure pools are safe to use?
When swimming pools are re-opened, pools will be required to maintain the 2-metre social distancing guidelines.
Swim England say that their guidance has been developed in consultation with Sport England and Public Health England for all areas of aquatic activity, including pool operations, the learn to swim plus community, and club swimming.
Swimmers will also be asked to arrive ready to swim, to shower at home pre and post swimming, and once having finished swimming, to leave the venue as soon as they can, so that as little time as possible is spend in changing rooms.
In the pool, there will be lanes allocated to swimmers dependent on speed – fast, medium and slow. Swimmers will be not be allowed to overtake whilst swimming and are asked to respect people of different standards and abilities, and their right to enjoy their swim.
Full guidance for pool users and clubs, as well as for community swimming and instructors, operators and swimming lessons can be found on the Swim England website.
Will my pool re-open?
Pools will not all re-open at once. It will depend on individual pools to decide to re-open when they are financially able to and set up to enforce effective social distancing measures.
For information on your local pool, keep an eye on their website and correspondence for full details on their plans for re-opening.
President of Swimathon, Duncan Goodhew, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that one in ten pools might not be able to open in July, due to the costs of opening and running.
He said: "A little like a restaurant, it becomes very difficult economically to make it work because you're just not getting the volume of people through."
What about outdoor pools and lidos?
Due to the financial burden of the lockdown, many lidos who were already struggling financially may never re-open.
Emma Pusil, author of the Lido Guide, wrote in an article for the May issue of Outdoor Swimmer, that some lidos were already operating on a financial “knife-edge”.
“The impact on the swimming venues forced to close is as immense as the impact on the swimmers they serve,” she said. “The majority are seasonal, and community run. They rely on income generated during the summer months to pay their bills and survive another year. This unseasonably long run of warm and sunny weather would have given earlier-opening lidos a very healthy start to their seasons. They are dealing with the closures in different ways.”
How can I support my local lido?
The main way to support your local pool once it re-opens is simply to use it.
In the meantime, Emma Pusil has given some suggestions for how to support your pool both now and when it re-opens.
- Follow your local swimming venues on social media – you’ll be the first to hear about re-opening plans, and to hear about any pre-bookable events for later in the year.
- Pre-book quickly for any such events. A little income coming in now can make all the difference for venues that operate on slim margins.
- If you have booked in for an event that is cancelled, think about whether you really need the refund – if you can manage without it then either don’t request the refund, or donate it back once it’s been issued.
- If your local venue has a friends, supporters or user group, please join it. Many are free to join, but where there is a fee it will help them enormously to have it. More importantly, however, when they reopen they’ll have the benefit of your interest and expertise – many venues are likely to have to do things differently for a while, and use groups can really help develop and shape plans and strategies.
- See whether your local venue currently offers any merchandise on-line. If they do, consider investing.