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Outdoor pools allowed to reopen from 11 July and indoor pools to begin reopening from 25 July

Swim England has praised the incredible patience and support of the aquatics community after swimming pools were finally given the green light to start reopening.

The Government has outlined the measures that will allow outdoor pools to reopen from 11 July and indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities to reopen from 25 July, ensuring millions of people can get back into more sport and fitness activities (view DCMS press release).

View the guidance for gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports facilities in England (those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should refer to guidance from the devolved administrations) published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and compiled with input from the trade body ukactive, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England and other sports bodies, and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.

It includes advice for providers of pool, gym and leisure facilities on cleaning, social distancing, and protection for staff to help venues get back up and running safely.

It also supports the re-opening of sports halls which are vital to the return of play for many sports, including badminton and volleyball. Guidance produced by National Governing Bodies will complement the government guidance and help ensure indoor sports can be played safely from July 25.

Venues must ensure they can enable customers, staff and volunteers to maintain social distancing before, during and after participation. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool. Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff. Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus."

Measures set out in the guidance include:
  • Limiting the number of people using the facility at any one time, for example by using a timed booking system;
  • Reducing class sizes and allowing sufficient time between each class to avoid groups waiting outside during changeover;
  • Ensuring an appropriate number of people are in a swimming pool at any one time;
  • Spacing out equipment or taking some out of service to maintain social distancing;
  • Enhanced cleaning and providing hand sanitizer throughout venues;
  • Considering how the way people walk through their venue could be adjusted to reduce contact, with queue management or one-way systems;
  • Ensuring adequate ventilation;
  • Encouraging the use of outdoor spaces for individual, team or group activities, making sure to comply with the latest restrictions on public gatherings;
  • Exercise or dance studios should have temporary floor markings where possible to help people stay distanced during classes;
  • Customers and staff should be encouraged to shower and change at home wherever possible, although changing rooms will be available.

The announcement on 9 July follows a recent visit by Government, Sport England and public health officials, led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, to a series of ukactive member sites. This allowed officials to see first-hand how the sector is preparing to reopen safely.

Leisure centres and indoor gyms, along with swimming pools and other indoor sports facilities, have been closed since Saturday 21 March as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Swim England Chief Executive Jane Nickerson thanked the thousands who supported its #OpenOurPools campaign and also vowed that the recognised national governing body will now do everything in its power to support facilities that could be mothballed due to financial hardship, saying: “We know that pools need time to get their facilities up and running again after being closed for so long. Many outdoor pools will not be ready to open from this weekend and some indoor pools may not be ready to open on 25 July, so we’d ask swimmers to remain patient a little while longer.”

Integral and important part of every community

Jane also renewed the battle cry for the Government to financially help pools that are at risk of permanent closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, by ensuring there is ring-fenced funding for swimming pools and leisure facilities.

She said: “Now we know when pools can start to reopen, our focus turns to fighting for those facilities that are facing an uncertain future due to financial difficulties caused by the lockdown to curb this awful pandemic. Aquatic activity has been proven to improve people’s physical and mental health, helping save the health and social care system more than £357 million a year.

“We realise the public purse is under considerable pressure but spending money now to help keep pools open rather than letting them close down forever will help save millions in the long-term. Even before this outbreak, we were forecasting a shortage of facilities over the next 10-20 years and this problem will only be exacerbated by the loss of pools as a result of Covid-19. These pools are an integral and important part of every community and we’ll do everything we can to help ensure that remains the case.”

Recreational team sports will also be permitted to begin returning outdoors from this weekend, under Government guidance published on 9 July (view press release).

View the framework which sets out the principles that sports must follow to enable the safe return of grassroots fixtures and games. It was produced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport with input from Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care and Sport England.

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