It's not summer yet, not even spring, but all bathing professionals are already thinking about it.
What if Covid-19 worsened the summer scourge of drowning?
Since last March, between confinement and health restrictions that led to the total or partial closure of public swimming pools, a whole generation of children - 800,000 toddlers - have not been able to follow the school swimming cycle correctly. .
"It's a lost year, which we will hardly be able to make up," warn the PE teachers.
Closing of swimming pools: before the summer, "we are working on emergency solutions for schools"
For many families, especially those from working-class backgrounds, school remains the only place where you learn to swim.
In Seine-Saint-Denis, for example, one in two young people cannot swim when they enter college.
An additional influx of non-swimmers to beaches, leisure centers, public swimming pools or even private pools this summer.
Each year, nearly 1,000 people drown, a figure that has been rising steadily for six years.
Public Health France is due to submit its triennial report on the issue this year.
In 2018, his study showed a 96% increase in drowning deaths in children under 6, and 132% in private family swimming pools.
There are solutions
So, fewer swimmers make you fear more tragedies in fine weather.
"Because of the Covid-19 and the closing of the swimming pools, we lost almost two complete swimming cycles, since in the year 2019/2020, the classes had just started the discipline before we were confined", summarizes Coralie Benech, sports teacher in a Parisian college and national secretary of Snep-FSU, the majority union in her profession.
This is confirmed by Axel Lamotte, lifeguard in Seine-Saint-Denis and deputy secretary general of the National Professional Union of Lifeguards.
"Children not having normal access to aquatic awakening and learning to swim for a year, we are worried about the number of drownings which could increase in 2021", he explains, citing the letter sent by his union to the Minister of Sports a week ago.
“When the 2020/2021 cohorts of students land on the beaches or leisure centers, it will be catastrophic!
», He supports.
But for Axel Lamotte, solutions exist.
“We know that the strong presence of chlorine in swimming pool water can kill the virus.
So, if we think about how to stir less students in the locker rooms, we can reopen the pools and resume swimming ”, he explains, also citing the possibility of doing“ massage courses ”for children, which have “proven their effectiveness”.
"There are not enough swimming pools in France"
Can this delay in school swimming be made up?
Roxana Maracineanu, the Minister of Sports, indicates that solutions are being studied, in particular mobile pools that can be moved from school to school for express learning.
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Beyond the emergency, will we be able to work harder to get out of the Covid-19 crisis and have more students swim?
"Almost impossible, unless you build swimming pools in the chain", answer swimming professionals.
Already, in normal times, recalls Coralie Benech, "it is very complicated to reserve a water line for a class, because there are not enough swimming pools in France".
Any remedial plan for the 2020-2021 generation would be “to the detriment” of other students.
In Puteaux, "an impression of normality" since the reopening of the swimming pool
What do those who will welcome these cohorts of non-swimmers say?
"We expect it to be a complicated summer", recognizes Gérard Hébert, president of the Etampes leisure center (Essonne), which has a wave pool, also regional councilor (LR) of Ile-de-France.
"We will do everything to deal with it: meetings are planned to strengthen surveillance, increase the number of lifeguards, facilitate access to firefighters ...", says the elected.
Which indicates that the opening of swimming pools and bases "is a priority" this summer.
“For kids who can't afford to go on vacation, that's all they have left,” adds Gérard Hébert.
We have a social vocation.