‘Muddy waters’ over pool advice from government

SWIMMING schools provide another form of education and should be allowed to open, a club owner has said.

Malcolm Parris, Le Mourier Swim School and Marine owner. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30017553)
Malcolm Parris, Le Mourier Swim School and Marine owner. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30017553)

Malcolm Parris – manager, director and owner of Le Mourier Swim School – explained that the business was not explicitly told to close, but they made the decision to shut following government guidance requiring the closure of indoor recreation centres last month.

He said: ‘Because it’s a small sector, we don’t seem to have a lot of guidance. We feel we’re an educational institute and that teaching children how to swim is a life skill, but government tend to put us on the recreational side of things.

‘We read the regulations on indoor recreation and felt that closing was the right thing to do. It was originally straightforward, but now the waters feel a bit muddy.’

Mr Parris explained that he had received letters from parents expressing confusion, as their children have been able to go swimming in school PE lessons but could not attend their Le Mourier classes. ‘If children are going swimming at school and can go to school, I don’t feel that in a very controlled environment like ours they shouldn’t be able to come swimming. Our pools are very hygienic and with the chemicals we use it’s probably one of the safest places to be.’

Mr Parris received new confirmation from the government on Wednesday (13 Jan) that children may attend Le Mourier’s reception swimming provision but that he had received no guidance on when after-school provision will be able to start. ‘This, as you can imagine, forms 98% of our financial stability,’ he added.

‘We want a bit more guidance and access to somebody who can give us that information. We don’t know who to talk to. I’m not pointing the finger at anybody but am putting my hands in the air and saying “What do I do?” Currently, we feel rudderless. I’ve spoken to lots of departments and get thrown from one to the other. We’re hopeful that stage two of return to normal will allow us to open – but if it doesn’t, we’re in a bit of a pickle.’

Jersey Tigers Swimming Club president Lindsey Woodward added that it was ‘a shame’ that swimmers had been away from the pool for so long.

‘We put a tremendous amount of work into swimmers and coaches returning to the pool safely last summer, after the four-month lockdown, and here we are again,’ she said. ‘The coaches and swimmers are suffering mentally with the lack of swimming, as it is their routine and lifestyle.

‘The chlorine levels in the pool, along with the health and safety procedures that we put in place, made swimming extremely safe. That said, we need to keep the older and most vulnerable members of our Jersey population safe, so that is why we are all still apart. It would be nice to see us back in the pool as soon as possible.’

Mrs Woodward added that she had been received ‘very clear’ guidance from Jersey Sport throughout the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Jersey Swimming Club president Carole Penfold said that ‘as far as I’m concerned, [government guidance] says there is no swimming and that’s that.’ She explained that pool closures had been difficult for competitive swimmers and young children learning to swim, but that the most important thing was to stay safe and follow government guidance.

‘If medical advisers are saying don’t swim, then we shouldn’t do it. I have to say, I believe that swimmers are absolutely safe when they are in chlorinated water. But you still have swimmers and coaches on the pool side. Being careful and making sure you are always two metres apart is not very easy when in a swimming pool.’

According to the World Health Organization, the Covid-19 virus does not transmit through water while swimming, but swimmers should keep their distance from each other and wear masks when not in the water.

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