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Key swimming organisations warn lives at risk if NSW Government keeps indoor pools shut
The impact of the NSW Government’s decision to delay opening indoor pools until 1st December 2021 will put lives at risk and force many swim school businesses to close or scale down operations according to leading industry bodies the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA), Swimming Australia, Swim Australia and Swimming NSW.
Collectively, the organisations are calling on the NSW Government to urgently reconsider the announcement that indoor pools cannot reopen until the final month of the year.
Commenting on behalf of the industry cohort, ASCTA Chief Executive Brendon Ward said the concern about COVID was only one aspect of the situation being considered.
Ward advised “we know the Government is concerned about community health and wellbeing but this should not be limited to the spread of COVID, but also consider the impact of restrictions on the mental and physical health and social cohesion of communities with indoor pools being closed.
“We recently conducted community research, which revealed over 84.5% of Australians believe learning to swim should be considered an essential service. This is further supported by close to 50% (47.3%) of parents believing children’s swim safety should be a priority throughout the pandemic. Families want this service available to them and community safety and wellbeing are our primary concern.”*
Ward noted the aquatic industry delivered $9 billion in economic and social benefits to the nation and employed 67,000 people**, adding “the industry is reeling, and the extension of the lockdown will have tragic consequences for business already hit so hard. With indoor pools currently due to reopen on the first day of summer, children who have missed vital swimming lessons will be at greater risk this season, more than ever before.
“Our industry is committed to community outcomes including health and wellbeing, saving lives and social cohesion. We implore the NSW Government to reopen indoor pools as an absolute priority.”
The organisations supports the swimming industry’s call for re-opening indoor pools and not closing regional facilities that are already open, citing:
• Lives lost: After a shorter lockdown last year, 25 children (between 0-4) died from drowning, a tragic increase of 108% from the previous year. The increase for 5-to-14-year-olds was 56%. *
• No community transmission: Indoor pools have opened previously with COVID Safe Protocols in place without a single case of community transmission. Chlorinated water is known to kill the virus.
• Delta and children: This month the National Centre for Immunisation Research found that 98% of children impacted by the Delta Variant were asymptomatic or had mild cases and are less likely to pass the virus on see here.
• Limiting the risk: The risk of delayed opening on fatal and non-fatal drowning is potentially greater than the risk of COVID spread, especially given the flow on impact of future generations who miss out on swimming lessons right now:
• There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through HVAC ventilation systems according to Safe Work Australia. All indoor pools meet all applicable building codes for ventilation with either HVAC or cross ventilation systems.
• The virus does not survive in properly treated water***
• Masks and social distancing can protect those out of the water
• Changing rooms do not need to be open reducing gatherings of people and therefore the risk of spreading the virus
• Non vaccinated parents can be excluded (as people are from other freedoms)
• The aquatic industry has agreed to follow the State Legislation on compulsory vaccinations for staff and clients as appropriate
• Outdoor pools not enough: Children need shallow pools, warm air, and warm water to learn to swim. Therefore, most outdoor pools now have indoor teaching facilities. Outdoor pools cannot provide the right space for all ages or cater to the overwhelming demand.
• Supply and demand: Swim school wait lists are at record high levels. Swimming coach and teacher numbers are at record low levels due to the casual nature of the work and associated attrition throughout COVID restrictions. Demand is outweighing supply and will lead to massive gaps in the acquisition of essential swimming and life-saving skills for children
• Disaster payments withdrawn: If indoor pools remain closed for an additional month after the Federal Government winds up the disaster payments, thousands more coaches, teachers and swim school operators will be left without financial support and will be lost to the industry compounding the current shortage.
• 8 million lessons and counting: Already more than 8 million vital learn to swim lessons have been missed in NSW due to the Pandemic
• Competitive swimming: Most competitive swimmers in NSW train in indoor pools, many have already lost months of training. Competitive training can be completed with social distancing and COVID Safe practices in place
• Schools and community sport: Face to Face learning at school is returning, community sport is returning, including indoor close contact sports which involve children under 12. What is the rational to determine one sport opening over another?
• School term: Many learn to swim businesses operate only during school terms, after five months in lockdown they will reopen for a little over two weeks. Businesses have already gone under. More will likely fail, leaving children without lessons.
• Regional Indoor Pool Impact. Currently indoor pools in regional NSW are open and fully operational subject to density and capacity restrictions. Based on current information from NSW Health, these indoor pools may need to close on 11 October to meet the new State-wide restrictions being imposed. What is the rational for this to occur?
• Cost effectiveness of reopening. Most swimming pools offset operational costs through learn to swim programs. It is not feasible to re-open one aspect (for example squad swimming) without having other income streams running at the same time.
The industry is looking forward to working with the NSW Government to have children back in the water as soon as possible.
ASCTA represents swimming coaches and teachers throughout Australia with a community of 44,000 people who work in aquatic facilities and who access its professional development and member services.
Swimming Australia is the national sporting organisation for competitive swimming.
Swimming NSW is the state swimming association for competitive and club-based swimming in NSW and ACT.
Swim Australia is the peak body for swim schools in Australia with 500+ swim school members, swim teacher qualifications/accreditations. Water safety campaigns are run throughout the year including Swim Safer Week (15th to 19th November) and the Swim it Forward campaign which assists families with the cost of learn to swim lessons.
*1000 sample online research conducted in September by Pure Profile on behalf of Swim Australia/ASCTA
**Royal Life Saving Society Drowning Report 2021
***Study by Virologists from Imperial College, London.
Lower image: Brendon Ward.
30th September 2021 - NSW gyms set to reopen but indoor aquatic facilities to stay closed until December
22nd September 2021 - Royal Life Saving announces new partnership program for swim schools
15th September 2021 - Swimming Australia advise all-female Independent Panel moves to next phase
13th September 2021 - Aquatic and Recreation Institute charts sector’s roadmap to reopening
13th September 2021 - AUSTSWIM opens nomination for 2021 Awards of Excellence
9th September 2021 - Carlile Swimming mandates staff vaccination
8th September 2021 - Lockdowns contribute to rise in Australian drowning deaths during past year
3rd September 2021 - Swimming Australia Board pledges to work towards National Integrity Framework
18th August 2021 - Australian Swimming League launch event delayed due to COVID-19
8th April 2021 - Swim Australia shares resources to aid swim teacher recruitment
30th December 2020 - ARI NSW issues statement on child safety in aquatics and learn to swim
24th September 2020 - Learn2Swim Week sees swim schools offer free lessons for children under five
28th May 2020 - ASCTA awards recognise swimming excellence
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