Forced closure of indoor pools risking children’s lives, swimming industry says

The impact of the NSW government’s decision to postpone the opening of indoor pools until December 1, 2021 will put lives at risk and force many swim school businesses to close or scale back their swimming pools. operations according to swimming industry groups.

ASCTA, Swimming NSW, Swimming Australia and Swim Australia are calling on the NSW government to urgently reconsider the announcement that indoor pools cannot reopen until December 1, 2021.

ASCTA CEO Brendon Ward, commenting on behalf of the industry cohort, said concern about covid was only one aspect of the envisioned situation.

“We know the government is concerned about the health and well-being of the community, but this should not be limited to the spread of covid, but also consider the impact of restrictions on mental and physical health and cohesion. social community with the closure of indoor swimming pools.

Brendon Ward, CEO of ASCTA

“We recently conducted community-based research, which found that over 84.5% of Australians believe that learning to swim should be considered an essential service. This is further supported by nearly 50 percent (47.3 percent) of parents believing that children’s swimming safety should be a priority throughout the pandemic. Families want this service to be accessible to them and the safety and well-being of the community is our primary concern. “

Ward noted that the aquatic industry brought $ 9 billion in economic and social benefits to the nation and employed 67,000 people.

“The industry is in shock and the extended lockdown will have tragic consequences for businesses already hit so hard. With indoor pools set to reopen on the first day of summer, kids who missed essential swimming lessons will be at greater risk this season, more than ever before.

“Our industry is committed to delivering results for the community, including health and wellness, saving lives and social cohesion. We implore the NSW government to reopen indoor pools as a top priority. “

Debby Tattoli from 5 Star Swimming Schools

Not prepared for the Christmas holidays

SPLASH! spoke with Debby Tattoli, owner-operator of 5-star swimming schools and a member of the Swim Australia advisory board. She says the impact on kids who miss school is huge.

“We have over 6,000 children learning to swim at our six centers, and if we don’t return by December 1, they will not be prepared for the Christmas holidays at all.

“Last year, after shorter confinement, 25 children aged 0 to 4 died of drowning, a tragic increase of 108% from the previous year. If these statistics aren’t enough to worry people, I don’t know what it is, ”says Tattoli.

“We’ve exceeded the limits of our covid safety plans, and I know other people have too – with staggered classrooms, smaller classrooms, and encouraging parents to bring their kids straight home. rather than changing in the centers. Some centers may also set up separate entry and exit points. It is much safer for children than going to the supermarket.

She says after the last lockdown, they closed their locker rooms until the restrictions were relaxed, and everyone was okay with that.

“They had their lesson, they jumped and went home to change. It has to be one of the safest activities children can participate in.

Effect on business and staff

She says the lockdown has been a huge financial and emotional strain on staff.

“Our biggest concern is with our people,” she says. “We employ almost 100 staff, mostly casuals, and they’re supported right now with pandemic payment, but for those with young families, that really doesn’t cut it.

“We are concerned about losing people from the industry. Some people lose the motivation to stay in the industry due to uncertainty. We have stayed in touch to try to keep them involved and they are normally very passionate about teaching swimming. But many of them are downcast and distraught. And they can’t wait for it to reopen.

She says they lobbied all parliamentarians – and says ASCTA and Swim Australia have done a tremendous job trying to get the message across.

“Maybe it was government oversight or overreaction to keep us closed. Everyone wants to ensure the safety of our customers and staff, but for us to be left behind after the nightclubs open is just crazy, and our fear is that with the summer period approaching, it there won’t be enough time for the children to be prepared. “

Important statistics

The following supports the swimming industry’s call to reopen indoor pools and not close regional facilities that are already open:
• Lives lost: after shorter confinement last year, 25 children (between 0 and 4 years old) died of drowning, a tragic increase of 108% over the previous year. The increase for 5-14 year olds was 56%. *
• No community transmission: Indoor swimming pools have already opened their doors with CovidSafe 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 Center for Immunization Research found that 98% of children affected by the Delta variant were asymptomatic or had mild cases and are less likely to transmit the virus.
• Limit the risk: The risk of delayed opening in cases of fatal and non-fatal drowning is potentially greater than the risk of spreading covid, especially given the impact of future generations who currently miss swimming lessons:
• There is no evidence that covid-19 can spread through HVAC ventilation systems according to Safe Work Australia. All indoor pools comply with all applicable building codes for ventilation with HVAC or cross ventilation systems.
• The virus does not survive in properly treated water ***
• Masks and social distancing can protect those who come out of the water
• Changing rooms do not need to be open, which reduces gatherings of people and therefore the risk of spreading the virus.
• Unvaccinated parents can be excluded (as people are other freedoms)
• The aquatic industry has agreed to follow state legislation on mandatory vaccinations for staff and clients, where applicable.
• Outdoor pools are not enough: children need shallow pools, warm air and hot water to learn to swim. As a result, most outdoor pools now have indoor teaching facilities. Outdoor pools cannot provide the right space for all ages or meet the overwhelming demand.
• Supply and demand: Swimming school waiting lists are at record levels. The number of swimming coaches and teachers is at an all time high due to the casual nature of the job and the associated attrition through covid restrictions. Demand exceeds supply and will lead to massive gaps in essential swimming and lifesaving skills for children
• Disaster Payments Withdrawn: If indoor pools remain closed for an additional month after the federal government ends disaster payments, thousands more coaches, teachers and swim school operators will end up without financial support and will be lost to industry, exacerbating the current shortage.
• 8 million lessons and more: Already more than 8 million life-saving swimming lessons have been missed in New South Wales due to the pandemic
• Competitive Swimming: Most competitive swimmers in NSW train in indoor pools, many have lost months of training already. Competitive training can be supplemented with social distancing and CovidSafe practices in place
• Schools and Community Sport: Face-to-face learning in school is making a comeback, community sport is making a comeback, including close contact indoor sports that involve children under the age of 12.
• School period: Many companies learning to swim only operate during school periods. After five months of confinement, they will reopen for a little over two weeks. Companies have already gone bankrupt. Others will likely fail, leaving children without lessons.
• Regional impact on indoor swimming pools. Currently, the regional NSW indoor pools are open and fully operational, subject to density and capacity restrictions. Based on current information from NSW Health, these indoor pools may have to close on October 11 to meet new statewide restrictions. What is the rationale for this to happen?
• Profitability of reopening. Most swimming pools offset operating costs through learn-to-swim programs. It is not possible to reopen an aspect (eg team swimming) without having other sources of income running at the same time.

* 1000 online research samples conducted in September by Pure Profile on behalf of Swim Australia / ASCTA
** Royal Lifesaving Society Drowning Report 2021 https://rlssq.com.au/Downloads/NDR/RLSS-National-Drowning-Report-2021.pdf
*** Study conducted by virologists from Imperial College London https://www.swimming.org/swimming.org/swimming-pool-water-inactivates-covid19-virus/ and the Healthy Swim Australia blog with references associated https://healthyswim.com .au / virus-deactivated-destroyed-by-secondary-sanitation-technology /

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