“Swimming Lessons must restart as soon as swimming pools open."
That was the message from Sarah Keane, Swim Ireland CEO, as the world gets ready to reopen as Covid-19 restrictions ease.
The enforced global closure of swimming pools and leisure facilities has had what can only be described as a catastrophic impact on the aquatic community, and 14 months into this global pandemic, it’s not surprising that the aquatic industry in Ireland feels like they are silently drowning.
This is an industry crying out to be heard, in fear of a lost generation of swimmers and workforce.
Swimming schools, swimming clubs, swimming teachers and swimming coaches are waiting on the sidelines, praying that they will be allowed back into the water as soon as swimming pools open.
And let’s not forget the children and young people who would have accessed swimming lessons and training sessions, heading into another summer without those vital lessons and training.
How do we know swimming pools are safe?
Recent research, commissioned by Water Babies, Swim England and the Royal Life Saving Society, and conducted by Imperial College London, confirms the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is incredibly low in aquatic environments.
Virologists proved that the virus is inactivated in just 30 seconds in the presence of chlorine, under the right conditions.
Maarten Keuten, researcher at TU Delft University and Hellebrekers, Netherlands published evidence that air quality in swimming pools is close to that of outdoor air quality.
The study demonstrates that ventilation systems with as little as 30% fresh air being circulated, at a minimum of 80% fan speed, reduces the aerosols in the air as would occur naturally in the outdoors.
The Health Protection Surveillance Agency in Ireland (HSPC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) state that swimming in a well-maintained chlorinated pool is safe.
With this evidence and the extensive frameworks produced by Swim Ireland, addressing operations in swimming pool activities, in swimming schools and swimming clubs, as well as swimmers and workforce, it is unquestionable that the swimming pool is just as safe as any other indoor area, if not safer.
The cessation of operations across the country has impacted so many, and now the fear of a lost generation of swimmers, and a reduction in aquatic professionals is real (in some cases up to 40% of the workforce has already been lost – Water Babies Ireland).
Thousands of people across the island of Ireland have been unable to access water for essential swimming lessons and their health and well-being for nine of the past 12 months.
Ultimately, if lessons and clubs can’t return when swimming pools open the future viability of the industry is in jeopardy.
"Swimming is such a unique sport as it’s the only sport which caters for all ages of our population and the only sport which teaches lifesaving skills," said Swim Ireland. "It’s an activity that for a large proportion of our population has health and well-being benefits that cannot be found on dry land.
"So on behalf of our members, partners, swim schools, teachers, coaches, athletes and swimmers, our message is simply this," they said, "when swimming pools open: let us teach, let us train – let us swim."
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