Latest government restrictions cause problem for swimming clubs

A swimming pool.
A swimming pool. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A recent government restriction which means sports training for children will be off the table from Monday as schools also close amid rising COVID-19 rates has run into a problem already, since while the training sessions may be off, children can still swim – pools themselves are not closed – but without getting any formal training.

Culture minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) said that outside of Ida-Viru County, indoor gyms, swimming pools and other training centers will remain open, with groups of up to 10 (instructor included) of adults permissible.

Lukas said: "An individual place can also use '1 + 1' in certain areas, i.e. one athlete and one coach (the same as the new regulations for Ida-Viru County – ed.)... Owners can make their own decisions, but the government will not order the closure of gyms, swimming pools and gyms."

With swimming pools, whose training groups might often normally exceed the maximum 10 and in any case attract a lot of children, the situation is particularly difficult, pool operators say, since there is a loophole whereby training sessions might be off, but pools are open and children can still purchase tickets to swim.

One of the largest swimming clubs in Tallinn and Harju County, Orca Swimming Club, with 1,200 members of all ages, says that the issue is already controversial, heightened by the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has proven that COVID-19 does not propagate in water, especially the chlorinated water found in swimming pools, the clubs says.

Merli Didvig, founder of the club, said: "These kids can go to the swimming pool; they can by a ticket there in their dozens, with the same group training together, but since this activity is not organized via a swimming club and a coach can't lead the training, it is not really a solution for swimming clubs."

A government ruling announced Wednesday and confirmed Thursday sees all educational institutions closed from Monday, and hobby and sports group activities suspended, from next Monday, while spas and swimming pools outside Ida-Viru County remain open.

The club has opted to suspend training and as a result tuition fees from Monday, but with it the club's main source of revenue, something which individual training cannot mitigate, they say.

"If we have 1,200 members, and if you consider that ever child should get an hour of exercise per day, you can figure out how many hours it would take, so we would simply not be able to do it," Didvig said.

Director of the Kalev swimming school Kristo Krinpus said that swimming courses will take a break next week while other sports training can continue in small groups (up to 10 as noted), meaning a handful of elite athletes will train as always, while the remaining 400 children will either have possible individual training from Monday, or general PT in the open air.

Krinpus said: "Certainly we can't take three weeks off for sports groups, so as far as possible, we are trying to divide things individually, so that everyone can train under the coaches' watchful eye," adding that some degree of alternation between swimmer and coach would be needed.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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