Leisure centres and swimming pools are open again following the coronavirus lockdown.

As with pubs, restaurants and shops, social distancing guidelines will be enforced at swimming pools at all times to minimise the risk of infection. 

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson will announce that social gathering of more than six people are to be made illegal, following second wave fears following a sudden surge in coronavirus cases. 

So where will that leave swimming pools? “Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said. “Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.”

So what does post-lockdown indoor swimming look like, and is it safe? Here’s what to know before going for a dip:

Are swimming lessons restarting?

Jane Nickerson, chief executive of Swim England, has previously said swim lessons and community activities could continue “as long as they are programmed and maintain a distance”. 

Poolside teaching is one of the changes made to ensure there is enough social distancing. Swim England said, “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.”

Those leading swimming lessons will need to be retrained on how to give visual cues and diagrams to help learners understand how to swim without the instructor getting into the water. 

The organisation have released a robust set of rules which they recommend centres adhere to in order to carry out lessons safely. These changes include:

  • Having a designated Covid-19 swimming lessons officer who sets out the rules clearly and is up to date with any of the latest changes to brief staff and customers
  • Putting together a checklist to ensure the centre is safe before the lesson can take place, such as how people will enter and exit the areas needed, whether there are enough handwashing facilities and setting up equipment so it can be used safely whilst social distancing 
  • Spreading out the timings of lessons so there is time in between to clean the facilities, including sanitising any equipment used

How could Covid-19 be spread at a swimming pool?

There is no evidence that coronavirus can spread to humans through the use of swimming pools, but it is possible in changing rooms.

“In the early days, it may be that you are encouraged not to use the changing rooms,” Nickerson said. “We’re suggesting going ‘beach ready’. Some pools might ask you just to put on a towelling robe and – let’s hope you’re not on a bus, you’re in a car – travel home like that.”

People may be told to change by the pool and put their valuables in a bag inside a locker.

Social distancing rules would still apply in the water, and a standard 25-metre pool could be modified so it has three lanes, rather than the normal six. Other detailed safety suggestions include: 

  • No overtaking while swimming
  • Double-width lanes
  • Rest areas outside the pool to avoid gatherings between lengths
  • An option to arrive already changed into swimwear
  • Two-metre social distancing throughout changing areas
  • No more than one swimmer per six square metres of a pool 
  • Pools divided for family sessions so that each household has their own area.

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