Gearing up for a safe return to the swimming pool in Phase 2
Number of swimmers set to be restricted when sports facilities are allowed to reopen in Phase 2
Going for a swim when it is permitted during Phase 2 of the post-circuit breaker period will be a different experience, just like many other activities.
To prevent crowds, there will be significantly reduced pool capacity. The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) is proposing just one person per lane at any one time.
To discourage the use of communal facilities, which could increase the risk of coronavirus transmission, the SSA is also urging patrons to shower at home before and after their swims.
This means ideally, one should be wearing swimming attire under clothes upon reaching or leaving the swimming facility.
There is no evidence suggesting that the virus can be spread through water, as the chlorine within swimming pools could help to kill the virus.
People, however, should be mindful of their interactions with others outside of the water.
The SSA has this week been been providing affiliates with suggested guidelines on safe distancing for aquatic sports in anticipation of pools reopening, which could take place as early as the end of the month.
The guidelines have been presented to national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG).
Last week, SportSG's deputy chief of industry Thomas Lim confirmed that the reopening of public pools will take place in Phase 2, adding that they are formulating advisories for safe distancing measures, which it will implement.
He also highlighted that there has to be a differentiation between recreational use of facilities and use for classes.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said earlier last week that the Government will review the number of Covid-19 transmissions in the community during the first two weeks of Phase 1, which started on Tuesday, to ascertain when to transition to the next phase.
He added that if infection rates remain low and stable, Phase 2 could begin before the end of the month.
Swimming pools have been closed since the circuit breaker measures kicked in on April 7.
With SportSG's announcement on Monday that Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and qualifiers can return to training from Tuesday "under controlled conditions" at selected venues, SSA president Lee Kok Choy signalled that these measures could provide a template on how public pools could reopen.
He said: "This could be the first step to do a pilot study on how to allow pools to be reopen and to build the confidence of the Government and the public to reopen pools in Singapore, and we are not taking the processes lightly."
The SSA's guidelines for elite athletes include temperature taking, mandatory usage of SafeEntry and contact tracing apps, mask-donning until swimmers take to the water and no sharing of equipment.
The number of swimmers in the water will depend on the number of lanes in the pool, with one person permitted per lane at any one time.
Elite athletes are also required to wear their swimming attire under clothes to the venue and are not permitted to shower at the vicinity.
The SSA told The New Paper yesterday that patrons will be urged to shower at home if possible, before and after their swims.
Sherman Ang, 38, who used to swim once a week before pools were closed, said he would be willing to return to the water even if he was not allowed to change at the venue or shower there before or after laps.
He said: "The guidelines are a good start. Personally, because I enjoy swimming, I would want to return (when pools reopen)."
The swimming body has produced a document that outlines plans, guidelines and safety measures for the reopening of swimming pools.
SSA secretary-general Bervyn Lee told TNP: "The document provides safe practices on pool usage and other facilities, such as changing rooms and waiting areas.
"This document is guided by current MOH (Ministry of Health) guidelines, SportSG considerations, and the input of experts in the aquatic fraternity worldwide.
"The guidelines and considerations will continue to change as we learn more about Covid-19 and infectious diseases in general. As such, we expect this document to be periodically updated."
ONLINE BOOKING OVERSEAS
Other countries have also implemented restrictions when their swimming pools reopened recently.
France opened some public swimming pools on Tuesday. According to local media, a maximum of 12 people are allowed in the water at any one time.
Online or in-person reservations are required with patrons allowed a maximum booking of 90 minutes. Swimmers will be allowed to shower at the venue but the number of shower facilities will be half of the previous capacity.
In Berlin, however, indoor showers and changing rooms will remain closed, with swimmers instructed to arrive at pools in the German capital with their swimming outfits under their clothes.
It is a similar dress code for swimmers in Italy. Pool patrons are also required to be surrounded by 7 sqm of water space.
Coaches, beginner swimmers to have no physical contact in Phase 2: SSA
No physical contact between swim coaches and beginner students, with parents or caregivers from the same household guiding kids in the water instead.
That is one of the Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) suggested guidelines on safe distancing for aquatic sports in anticipation of pools reopening in Phase 2 of the post-circuit breaker period. SSA briefed its affiliates on these guidelines this week.
Initially, only one-on-one coaching is allowed. But it might progress to two students per coach later in Phase 2.
While Phase 1 started only on Tuesday, the transition to the second phase could begin as early as the end of this month.
Former Olympian and director of X Lab swim school Mark Chay, who attended SSA's two-hour virtual town hall, believes the suggested guidelines would make it tough to resume learn to swim (LTS) classes for beginner-level students on any substantive scale any time soon.
LTS classes typically comprise the majority of swim school patrons, with about 700 of X Lab's around 1,000 students enrolled in such programmes.
Chay told The New Paper: "How are you going to be able to teach the kid how to swim if you don't hold them? In terms of safety and instruction, it is going to be hard. So, I don't see LTS happening any time soon."
He added that swimmers preparing for competitions are more likely to return than beginner swimmers in Phase 2, but highlighted that the bulk of revenue for swim schools come from LTS classes.
Jacqueline Chan, director of Odysseus Aquatics swim school, said that with the reduced class size, she would not be able to afford to pay her coaches to resume work in Phase 2 and would have to conduct all classes by herself.
- DILENJIT SINGH