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Victoria’s aquatic industry leaders call for clarity

The Victorian Aquatic Industry Alliance (VAIA) have proposed a safe and viable reopening of the aquatic industry to the Victorian Government. Following Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement of the roadmap for easing Coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne, VAIA has proposed options for industry-specific restriction levels that enable aquatic facilities to recover business and reengage communities.

As VAIA understands, as of 14th September restriction levels for regional Victoria enabled the reopening of outdoor pools under the heavily restricted category. This category allowed 20 people per pool or one person per 4 metre² of the total publicly accessible space, whichever number is fewer. The use of showers and change rooms are also not permitted, with the exception of toilets.

Subsequently, VAIA has welcomed Premier Andrew’s announcement on 15th September and the release of some further clarity in an early move to a third step for regional Victoria.

This allows outdoor pools to increase their patronage to up to 50 people per pool or one person per 4 metre² of the total publicly accessible space, whichever number is fewer.

Step Three also allows for exclusive use of the pool for community sport and for educational based school aquatics. School participation will be dependent on the Victorian Department of Education and Training’s excursion policy, upon the return of students to school on 5th October.

As of today, VAIA has advised that it will continue to seek clarification around what Step Three means for indoor facilities, referring to Ausplay data demonstrating that swimming is the most popular physical activity for children and the third most popular for adults.

Referring these figures, VAIA explained “opening indoor facilities in Step Three is important for community outcomes, health and wellbeing and essential water safety education.”

The Alliance goes on to state that “the aquatic industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with most Victorian facilities being closed since March. Every week closures cost the industry $2.5 million in lost Learn to Swim revenue and more than 143,000 children are missing out on swimming lessons.

“VAIA shares industry concerns that the impact COVID-19 has had on the ability for the community to actively participate in swimming lessons will result in an increase on drowning rates.”

VAIA spokesperson and Chair, Amanda Locke, advised “the aquatic industry has been hit particularly hard, and now as we look towards reopening it’s important that there is industry-specific guidance. It is important for our industry to have this level of detail now, in order to effectively plan reopening.”

To support the industry, VAIA have provided recommendations to the Victorian Government, which outline a scalable, safe, and financially viable approach to reopening aquatic facilities. The recommendations include scalable density restrictions and for indoor facilities to be able to reopen with heavy restriction under Step Three of the Victorian Government roadmap.

Locke added “the previous density restrictions applied to the heavily restricted category are not financially viable for many facilities, we need to ensure that there is a scalable approach that ensures reopening is viable for facilities of all sizes.”

VAIA’s recommendations would see facilities under the government’s heavily restricted category able to have the greater of one person per 8m2 or 20 people per pool, and pools in the restricted category able to have one person per 4 metre² in each pool.

These recommendations are supported by recent research that suggests there is little likelihood of COVID-19 infection in pool water, due to the controlled humidity and maintenance, making pools a safer sporting environment in the context of COVID transmission.

With Victorian Government continuing to give consideration to the lesser risk of transmission between children, VAIA are also recommending that there are no density restrictions in place for those under the age of 18 years.

Locke went on to highlight “the environment in which we operate means we are well–placed to reopen safely. Research tells us that the chance of transmitting COVID-19 in pool water is incredibly low, and that transmission from children is also very rare.

“Aquatic programs, such as learn-to-swim and swim training are very controlled and structured, and we believe that with COVID-Safe principles in place these programs should be able to be reactivated during Step Three.

“With the protocols we have outlined in our recommended reopening approach, we believe our industry will be able to reopen safely and in a way that is financially viable,” said Ms Locke

VAIA will continue to work passionately alongside Sport & Recreation Victoria to provide subject matter expertise surrounding future decisions regarding the government roadmap and the restriction levels within.

The Victorian Aquatic Industry Alliance (VAIA) brings together key aquatics industry leaders to advocate on behalf of the industry. The alliance members represent; Aquatics & Recreation Victoria (ARV), Aligned Leisure, Australian Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA), Australian Swim School Association (ASSA), Belgravia Leisure, Ford Swim Centre, Kingswim, Paul Sadler Swimland, Swimming Victoria, Yarra Leisure and YMCA Victoria (The Y).

The group was established in May 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VAIA will host an 'Aquatic Town Hall' forum this Friday at 1pm.

The event which will also be shared across VAIA members and industry pages.

Article courtesy of Australasian Leisure, for more info click here

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