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Lifeguards return for a Covid 20/21 swim season

AS the weather warms, lifeguards are ready return to the beach and pools for the 2020/2021 swim season, which begins on Saturday September 26.

This year’s season will come with a unique set of challenges, as the pandemic coincides with the swim season.

Wollongong City Council’s nine patrolled pools will each open and operate under a COVID-safe plan for the swim season. Social distancing requirements will remain in place at pools, and pool showers will remain closed. As the demand for pool access increases towards the summer, pools will transition to a booking system from October 12.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the online system will allow people to book a two-hour window for a swim and will prevent overcrowding and ensure pools meet the requirements of NSW Public Health Orders.

“We are asking our community to embrace our swim and go message at our pools over the summer. Once you’ve cooled off and enjoyed the water, look to head home,” he said.

“From 12 October we will introduce a ‘book to swim’ system which will allow users to get used to a new protocol at the pools before the busy days of summer. The online bookings will be made through Council’s website or people can contact our Customer Service Team during office hours, Monday to Friday, for assistance. This booking system won’t just help us ensure as many people as possible across the day get the chance to book in, swim and go, but also allow us to meet the COVID-tracing guidelines.

“Our shower facilities at our pools will also be unavailable due to COVID-19 NSW Health Guidelines, so those looking to swim in our pools should come prepared to “swim and go”. I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that our pools will operate a little differently to what we have been used to over this summer season so we are asking the public to be patient and considerate.’’

Cr Bradbery said beach goers are reminded that it is not only essential that they swim between the flags at patrolled beaches for their safety, but that they must also take into consideration their distance from other beach users when on the sand or in the water.

“The NSW State Government said earlier this week people should keep a towel’s distance away from each other, and that’s spot-on,” he said.

“It’s important we all do the right thing and maintain social distancing even when outside and at the beach. Of course, we are also encouraging those who are ill not to visit the beach and to stay at home.”

Flags will be up for the season across all our patrolled beaches, with beach swimmers strongly advised to heed all surf warnings throughout the period, and co-operate with lifeguards who will be facing challenging conditions. The advice is simple and strongly advised- NO FLAGS, NO SWIM.

“We are lucky enough to live in an area that has 42 kilometres of beautiful coastline that includes 17 patrolled beaches. We also have 9 patrolled pools, and 9 ocean rock pools, which means there are plenty of choices when it comes to cooling off this swim season,” Cr Bradbery said.

Beach goers this year should also be on the look out for new Council’s lifeguard safety messaging. The updated surf safety animation video focuses on six key messages: Preparing for a day at the beach; No Flags, No Swim – Swim between the red & yellow flags; Understanding and identifying rips; Stay calm and raise an arm when in difficulty; Lifeguards are here to help; and Protect the environment – Leave only your footprints. The video is set to be rolled out to schools across our region to educate primary school children on the critical importance of beach safety. We’ll also share versions on our website and social media to support the development of practical surf safety knowledge across the community.

“Our lifeguards are very experienced, and we’ve got more than 80 casual and fulltime professional ocean lifeguards for this season and they will be patrolling beaches and pools,” Cr Bradbery said.

“We are expecting a busy summer, and with the pandemic still affecting our community it is important that we recognise the challenges our lifeguards face, and support them by swimming between the flags and keeping our distance from other beach goers when in the water or on the sand and foreshore.

“They are extremely knowledgeable. We recommend that beachgoers talk with our approachable lifeguards if they wish to know more about surf conditions or have any questions.

“And, please, if you’re sick, stay home. The health, safety and wellbeing of our Council staff and volunteers, their families and our community are our number one priority. Staying home if you’re unwell, is an easy way to help keep others’ safe.”

Council Lifeguards and volunteer surf lifesavers will be on duty until April 27 2021.

For more information on beaches or pools visit Council’s website or contact its customer service team on (02) 4227 7111.

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About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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