'Like a slap in the face': Northampton Swimming Club joins national calls for pools to be allowed to reopen after Government snub
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Northampton Swimming Club cannot understand why pools are not being allowed to reopen on July 4, as they had prepared for.
The club, which provides sessions for around 750 swimmers, had got everything ready to safely get back in the water next month.
But pools were not included in the list of places that could reopen by the Government on Tuesday (June 23), sparking a national outcry from the sport.
Northampton Swimming Club director of swimming Jacquie Marshall said it was like 'a slap in the face' to be snubbed with no explanation.
"As a club, we're not devastated as no one has died and it's been such a horrendous time, but we were ready and had gone above and beyond the Swim England guidance," she said.
"We had bought thermometers to check the swimmers' temperatures. Our chairman is a doctor and she believes we should be swimming and thought it would be fine."
Swim England launched the Open Our Pools campaign on Tuesday, criticising the Government for providing no date for pools to reopen and calling for an immediate rethink.
Olympic swimming champions Adam Peaty and Rebecca Adlington have backed the campaign while more than 30,000 people to sign a petition on the subject.
Swim England argues pools can be operated safely without increasing the risk of spreading coronavirus, while the health and social benefits will help the nation.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma told Sky News today (Thursday) that leisure facilities may be allowed to reopen 'later on in July'.
Jacquie admitted it is hard to understand why pubs, restaurants, cinemas and others will be allowed to open when pools cannot.
"We've got ways of tracking and tracing, swimmers will only use one lane, no showers and we'll minimise time out of the water," she said.
"We've got lots of things put in place to make things safe and ultimately we're swimming in disinfected water.
"We can socially distance the swimmers in the water and get them to stop a metre or two apart - it's nuts."
Northampton Swimming Club provides learn-to-swim classes to around 500 people and has around 250 members - with ages ranging from toddlers to 78-year-olds, as well as some Olympic contenders.
They swim at multiple schools and leisure centres around the county, spending around £200,000 a year on booking pool time, but none of that has been possible for almost four months.
Their lockdown started a bit earlier than most organisations too as schools started to ban external hirers to reduce the spread of the virus so it has been tough for the swimmers.
"The kids I coach are in the water for 20 hours a week normally so to go from 20 to nought was like, 'wow'," she said.
"So we have tried to keep them fit by doing a lot of on-land exercises and games, as well as some life skills, education, cooking - so we keep them busy."
But Jacquie admitted the swimmers are desperate to be back doing what they love so the word was that pools would be included in the tranche of returnees on July 4.
Swim England published a comprehensive guide on how to reopen pools which Northampton Swimming Club followed and went above, with risk assessments, health questionnaires and more, all agreed by schools, leisure centres and the council.
But they have been left in limbo by the Government, with concerns growing about the financial viability of pool operators and clubs alike.
Northampton Swimming Club has furloughed most members of staff as it would have been impossible to pay them with no income from members as the club does not run a profit.
Pools also take around two-to-three weeks to get back to a usable state after being 'switched off' during the lockdown, so some notice is needed before they can reopen.
Jacquie just hopes the Government listens to the outcry they have caused and gives swimmers and pool operators a date to work towards soon.
"It was like a slap in the face but we will keep working hard to get the kids back in the water - that's the main aim," she said.