Monday 29 March sees the second stage of the first phase of lockdown restrictions eased across England - the first happened on 8 March when children returned to school - after months of a third nationwide lockdown that began in January.
The roadmap, unveiled by Boris Johnson, has given a staggered timeline that is hoped will end with a total lift on all rules no earlier than 21 June, provided data continues to show a downward trend in cases and the vaccine rollout goes as planned.
The restrictions relaxed on Monday now allow people to meet up outdoors in groups of six or two households, and allow a return to outdoor sports. This includes swimming in outdoor facilities.
But what are the rules and when do indoor sites reopen?
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When will they reopen?
As of Monday 29 March, outdoor swimming pools and lidos can reopen.
The government rules state: “Outdoor sports facilities can open, like tennis or basketball courts and open air swimming pools.
“Parent and child groups can take place outdoors in public spaces.”
When will indoor pools reopen?
The next stage of lockdown easing will happen no earlier than 12 April.
In this stage the government says indoor leisure can come back: “Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups).”
But some pools will never reopen: experts estimated around 500 UK pools would have to shut for good as a result of financial problems caused by the lockdown.
Duncan Goodhew, an Olympic gold-medallist and president of Swimathon, the world’s largest annual fundraising swim, told Radio 4’s Today programme in June 2020 that, of the 5,000 public pools in England, 10 per cent might never reopen.
How can I keep safe?
Possible difficulty maintaining social distancing in changing rooms and pool-side was considered the main reason for the delayed opening after the first lockdown.
This is rather than transmission in water, where chlorine is likely to kill the virus, according to Professor Keith Neal, professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham.
Swim England issued some guidance in June last year, which gives us an indication of what swimmers might expect when they return to the pool.
The guidance for individual users says:
- Booking. You should always check the website or social media channels before going to your pool for timetables, and book a slot in the pool if necessary.
- Do not go swimming if you show any Covid-symptoms. This includes a temperature, new and persistent cough, loss of taste and/or smell.
- Arrive ‘pool ready’. To reduce time spent in changing areas, consider arriving with your swimsuit under your clothes and ready to swim. Once you have finished your swim, leave the venue as soon as you can.
- Shower at home and spend as little time in the changing room as possible. Pre and post-swim showers should be conducted at home (even if facilities are open at the pool).
- Bring your own equipment. Take any equipment/aids with you (floats, kick boards etc.) ensuring it is clean and identifiable as yours before you arrive. And bring hand sanitiser.
- Follow guidance on the duration of swim. Your swimming pool might implement slot times to ensure social distancing is adhered to and the maximum number of people can make use of the pool. If they do, follow their guidance on this.
- Respect other pool users. People of different standards and abilities will use the pool. Please respect their right to enjoy their swim. Do not make physical contact with other participants.
- Be mindful about your speed and no overtaking. Choose your lane using the fast, medium and slow signs and by watching those already swimming. Please do not overtake whilst swimming. Before pushing off at each turn, check to see if anyone faster is approaching.
- Direction. Please follow the directional signs and move across to the appropriate side of the lane for each length.
- Social distance in the water. Always attempt to maintain appropriate social distance between yourself and another swimmer.
- Pick your stroke and stick with it. There had been some suggestion that Swim England would stop butterfly stroke, as it is a wide stroke and would increase risk of coming into contact with other swimmers, but that advice has now been removed. Now they say if you change to a slower stroke as part of your session, think about moving lanes.
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