MX23RW : Sunday, August 1 00:44:12| >> :600:23449516:23449516:

Swim England chief: 'Shutting pools is completely the wrong thing to do'

Jane Nickerson has stressed the importance of keeping pools open for the benefit of physical and psychological well-being.

Two hundred pools have closed permanently because of the coronavirus pandemic this year and the chief executive of Swim England fears an "awful lot more" might be forced to follow suit amid a second national lockdown.

While elite sport has been given the green light to continue, Jane Nickerson has queried why swimming pools are among a number of leisure facilities in England that have been told to shut down for four weeks from Thursday.

Nickerson pointed out the physical and psychological benefits of swimming, which according to a report saves the NHS and social care system £357million per year, adding pools do not carry a high risk of transmission.

She told the PA news agency: "We've proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that indoor leisure and swimming pools have a very low transmission of this virus and are safe places for people to go and exercise.

"To just slam the door shut again now, my concern is that many pools won't reopen and certainly I believe a lot won't reopen now before Christmas.

"We've lost 200 swimming pools already following the first lockdown, I think an awful lot more can follow suit.

"We know that swimming is immensely valuable to the health of the nation. Swimming is an activity you can do from cradle to grave and whether you have mobility on land or not.

"We just really do not understand this. This has slammed the door on a lot of vulnerable people who have now got nothing.

"On dark nights, where do you go as a single person to exercise at 6-7pm at night now? Do you run round dark roads and lanes on your own?

"Swimming has masses and masses of great impact on your mental health. If the Government is really, really keen on keeping people healthy in order to combat COVID, should they get it, slamming the door shut on swimming pools and indoor leisure just seems completely the wrong thing to do to me."

While some sectors forced to close can turn off the lights and lock the doors, Nickerson mentioned that is not a possibility with swimming pools, which have to be strictly maintained.

She said: "You've got to decommission a pool, you've got to keep some element of activity in the water to keep it safe and fresh. When you reopen it's about backwashing and bringing it back up to temperature and things like that.

"It costs a lot of money. It costs more money to keep decommissioning and commissioning pools than it does to keep them open in a way.

"We do feel like the forgotten sector. It just hasn't been supported. To me, it's an essential service and that's what I'm fighting for. It should be defended as such and kept open as such."

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States16171346
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151137
Great BritainGreat Britain891128
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events

· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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