With the nationwide lockdown now at level 4, more businesses are slowly reopening their doors. Swimming schools are calling on the government to allow them to go back to business within this level as well, instead of level 1 as currently mandated.

A petition has been created by swim schools to gather support for this cause. In it, swim heads argue that the reopening of swimming schools is important as the country has terrible drowning statistics.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. The highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years. Statistics South Africa reports that fatal drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the country.

The NSRI reports that 2000 people drown annually in South Africa, 600 of whom are children. Many more are disabled by a non-fatal drowning incident.

As a result, swim schools are urging government to recognise their service as essential amid the nationwide lockdown.

“The swimming teachers that teach countless children and adults how to swim have not been classified as essential service providers during lockdown. And now during level 4 lockdown we are still not able to open our swim schools to the thousands of children that cannot swim,” says Jean Bester , owner of Aquatic Zone and Aquatots Norwood.

“This skill needs to be taught to prevent lives being lost to drownings. COVID-19 or not, life goes on and in fact now more than ever swimming teaching is important as adults head indoors as it gets cooler, but their children are left to play outside, often around swimming pools.”

“We believe that this industry should be allowed to return sooner rather than later,” says Matt Pike, owner of Swimmatix. “With children being at home all day, the risk of them wondering off and with boredom setting in the risk is even higher. Swimming is not like other sport activities. Swimming is a skill that is taught that could potentially save a child’s life.”

If swimming schools cannot reopen soon, there may be increased drowning occurrences. Many Grade 1 learners will not learn how to swim, thus causing them to fall outside most schools’ requirements. Swim schools might also have to be liquidated due to high overhead costs.

The Centre for Disease Control has reported that there is no evidence that the virus which causes COVID-19 can be spread through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfectant (e.g. with chlorine or bromine) of pools and hot tubs should inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

Were the swimming schools to reopen, there would be a number of safety measures put in place to protect students and teachers. These include:

– Teachers will teach with face guards at all times. This will completely block out the chances of transmission between teacher and swimmers if used correctly.
– Any staff members needed outside of the pool must be kept to a minimum and should wear material face-masks at all times.
– Class sizes should be reduced based on pool size and space around the pool to maintain social distancing.
– A five minute rule to be implemented for parents to arrive before and leave after lessons.
– Seating should be arranged to promote social distancing within the swim school.
– Clear signage will be displayed within the swim schools on where parents can and cannot sit, where the hand sanitiser is etc.
– Any play areas should be removed in order discourage interaction or hanging around before or after lessons.
– All patrons must wear material masks.
– All patrons must hand sanitise (60-95% alcohol) on arrival and departure.
– Strict cleaning protocol before, between and after lessons will be implemented using alcohol based products. Surfaces like doorknobs, tables, countertops, kitchen areas, electronics, desks, toys, play frames in the play areas, handrails etc will be regularly disinfected and or cleaned.
– Rules and protocol to be displayed at entrances of swim schools.
– Use of non-contact methods of greeting.
– Office staff (if able to) should work from home or away from the parents and swimmers.
– One parent per child rule. No outside spectators are allowed to attend.
– Older swimmers in squad or stroke correction classes should be strictly drop & go.
– Teachers and staff must have their temperature checked daily.
– Parents must be informed and reminded to not bring swimmers who are feeling ill or who are showing any sick symptoms.
– Individuals not adhering to safety and preventative measures mentioned will not be allowed at any swim school premises.
– Teachers and staff to be trained on the following precautions and safety measures.
– Pool chlorine levels (1-4ppm) should be monitored in order to make sure it is acting as an effective disinfectant. (Chlorine is a highly effective disinfectant and while maintained at the proper levels there is no evidence that it can be transmitted within the pool.)
– Swimmers with pre-existing medical conditions should not attend lessons or swim venues.

If you would like to support, sign the petition here.

Picture: Instagram / Swimmatix Swim School

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