Swim Ireland and Swim Ulster, have today, on behalf of the swimming clubs based in Northern Ireland, written to the Northern Ireland Executive to ask them to reconsider the delay in opening swimming pools on 7th August 2020.

Both organisations were extremely disappointed to hear that Leisure Centres had been permitted to reopen on the 17th July but that this specifically excluded swimming pools, with no date mentioned other than the 7th August for these to be reopened. Pools in the Republic of Ireland have been open since 29th June while England have given a date of the 25th July for indoor pools to open.

The current health advice states that adherence to the appropriate guidelines will control risk from waterborne COVID-19 virus. Swimming pools across the island of Ireland are commonly disinfected with chlorine (as a primary disinfectant) which has proven to kill the virus. This enables pool operators to confidently state that COVID-19 would not be transmissible through swimming pool water if the pool is operated in line with this guidance. Furthermore, club swimmers are prepared to come to the pool and operate without access to changing rooms and showers as experts suggest that the primary risk to swimming pool users comes from the time spent outside of the water rather than the time spent within it. This policy is already proving to work very well for clubs and their swimmers in the Republic of Ireland.

Swimmers based in Northern Ireland are anxious to get back in the water, missing their sport and feeling discriminated against as their friends and competitors in the South are back in action. They have reached a point in the year where they would normally be increasing their training and instead find themselves not being able to undertake any training in the pool. They do not want to fall behind their counterparts in the South who will find themselves back to their sport much longer if this status quo is maintained.

Swim Ireland’s Swimming Framework, completed with input from equivalent bodies in England, Scotland and Wales is in line with Public Health Guidelines and contains the protocols through which clubs in the Republic of Ireland have been successfully operating since their return to the water at the end of June. We expect these clubs to be in a position to move to the next phase of their return to training in the coming weeks as they have trialled and successfully learnt from these protocols.

Speaking on yesterday’s announcement Swim Ulster Operations Manager Stephen Cuddy said ‘Swim Ulster have been in constant dialogue with the Executive providing all of the relevant documentation for the re-opening of pools. As of today, we will be the last sport back and I am urging the Executive to re-consider and bring the date forward.’

Swim Ireland National Performance Director Dr Jon Rudd added ‘To have different protocols in place for our sport north and south of the border is less than ideal and we are in a position where our swimmers in Northern Ireland are not just falling behind their southern friends and competitors, but are also disadvantaged in comparison with the majority of Europe. Our Framework for a return to water for swimmers and swimming clubs is incredibly robust, based on both science and common sense and we are willing and ready to support the councils and pool operators in their return to the water. We would ask the NI Executive to look at this again urgently’.