The NSW Government's path out of the current lockdown in Sydney and other parts of the state as of 11th October will not allow indoor aquatic facilities to reopen until December.
While gyms and fitness centres will reopen once a 70% vaccination target is reached, with a limit of 20 people per class, current NSW Government advice does not include indoor aquatic facilities in its plan to reopen the state at either the 70% or 80% vaccination rate.
While a relaxation of restrictions across Greater Sydney allowed outdoor swimming pools to open as of last Monday, but indoor pools must remain closed.
According to NSW Government advice "from Monday 27 September 2021, you will be able to resume swimming at outdoor public pools either within your local government area or within 5km of your home.
“Indoor recreation facilities such as squash courts, indoor swimming pools, gyms, table tennis centres, health studios, bowling alleys and ice rinks must close."
Under current arrangements, vaccinated and unvaccinated people can share the same public pools as there is no NSW Government requirement for patrons or staff to be vaccinated.
However, most aquatic centres are limiting numbers by having introduced booking procedures.
Responding to the ongoing closures, Olympic swimming star Emma McKeon says the ongoing closures “will put lives at risk”.
McKeon won seven medals at the Tokyo Olympics, including four golds, to become Australia’s most decorated Olympian, took to Instagram to voice her concern at indoor pools not being allowed to reopen as part of the NSW Government’s plan.
McKeon, whose family runs a learn to swim centre in Wollongong, said it was particularly crucial learn to swim classes resume as soon as possible, especially as summer approaches.
She said with pools being closed and many children unable to have swimming lessons for at least six months due to the pandemic, the risk of increased drownings will only worsen the longer the government waits to reopen indoor pools.
McKeon wrote “it’s very concerning that the NSW Government has not included indoor pools in the plan to reopen the State at either the 70% or 80% vaccination rate.
“We are heading into the summer and children have not been able to have swimming lessons for six months or more if we wait to December to open Swim Schools.
“Keeping indoor pools closed will put lives at risk.
“Last year after a shorter lockdown there was a 108% increase in drownings in 0-4 year olds. Learn to swim is an essential service. #watersafety #swimming lessons #learntoswim #mckeonswiming.”
Olympic champions Grant Hackett and Michael Klim each backed McKeon’s message, while Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves added: “Good on you Em.”
Gyms facing unique challenges
Commenting on fitness facilities’ impending opening, Fitness Australia Chief Executive Barrie Elvish was quoted by 9 News as saying one of the difficulties gyms were grappling with was its youthful clientele base, among which people were less likely to be vaccinated because of where they sat in the vaccine rollout.
9 News quoted Elvish as saying "one of the highest unvaccinated groups is those aged 20 to 40, but that age group also makes up the largest membership base for gyms.
"So when the total eligible population hits 70% vaccinated, gyms are probably going to only have about 50% of eligible members vaccinated."
Elvish said some gyms may therefore have viability issues with reopening until December while noting that there was also a "fairly vocal minority" in the same membership age group that were either vaccine hesitant or completely anti-vaccination.
Image: The Warringah Aquatic Centre will be among NSW's indoor swimming facilities that will be closed until December.
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