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In a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus, MPs voted today in favour of a second national lockdown that comes into force in the early hours of 5 November and will last until at least 2 December. Pools and leisure centres have been told to close but Swim England understands that school swimming lessons, as part of the national curriculum, will be allowed to take place.

Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson said: “Swim England fully supports measures to reduce the spread of the virus and help protect our NHS but this decision is incredibly disappointing for the millions of people who benefit from being active in the water up and down the country for their physical and mental wellbeing. It was heartening to hear a number of MPs speak up in the chamber on behalf of swimming and other affected sports following our lobbying work and I hope the Government took those points on board when considering which facilities are able to reopen. I would again thank the 23,000 people who took the time to sign our open letter to the Prime Minister in advance of today’s debate. We consistently made the case that pools were well-managed environments with a proven record of incredibly low transmission rates which makes the decision to close them particularly frustrating.”

Seeking clarification

Swim England is now seeking clarification on an exemption to a clause in the legislation around ’indoor gyms, fitness studios, indoor sports facilities and other indoor leisure centres for supervised activities for children’, and has been in discussions with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport throughout the day to see if this relates to learn to swim sessions and organised club sessions for under 18s. A number of leisure providers are also taking advice on this point but the DCMS has so far been unable to provide any clarification to Swim England. It is understood that all private pools face the same restrictions as public leisure facilities, but Swim England is seeking clarification on this matter too.

Jane Nickerson added: “We are working to see if the clause in the legislation gives us an opportunity for under 18s to be in the water in learn to swim sessions and club activity. We understand facility owners and operators are taking advice and are making plans based on the guidance they receive. As soon as we have the official Government position, we will let you know.”

Exemptions to the lockdown rules include elite athlete training and Swim England will be working with British Swimming to clarify who will be eligible for this.

Issued 4 November 2020