Crikey, things have moved fast, haven’t they? When I last blogged just over a week ago, our minds were taken up with the floods. Now we’ve moved swiftly on to pestilence. So this post isn’t about the environment, after all – it’s time to talk covid-19 and how we should be handling the coronavirus issue.

At my club, the committee spent a lot of time and many emails considering our response. The basics were easy – hand-washing, cleaning equipment and so on – but how far should we go? Should we stop land training altogether for the time being, as some clubs have done? Is it necessary to discourage socialising before and after training, following the example of several clubs? What about the showers and loos and kitchen?

The advice from British Rowing, echoed by Welsh Rowing, was, frankly, pretty limp (for the record, I’m not generally a BR-basher). I appreciate they don’t want to give out specific instructions or advice, but they might, at least, have suggested issues for committees to consider when putting measures in place. Instead, here’s the wisdom they offered on the subject:

At this stage, British Rowing does not feel any rowing specific advice is required beyond that issued for the general public.  This advice can be found on the NHS website and more information on the government’s response can be found here.

As always if you feel unwell, you should not row and should seek appropriate medical advice.

British Rowing will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as required.  All updates will be posted to this page.

So it really was down to us to make the call. We were mindful of the need to do enough to protect our club members, particularly as we are mostly a masters squad with a good number of people in their 60s, 70s and even one or two in their 80s. At the same time, we wanted to treat everyone as adults and allow them to make their own decisions where possible. We recognised how important it is for us to keep on rowing for as long as we are able or allowed – it gives us so much pleasure and is a huge contributor to both our physical and mental health.

This, then, is what we came up with:

Dear all, 

The committee has discussed our response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and decided to put some measures in place with immediate effect to ensure that we can continue rowing as safely as possible. We’ve taken advice from our in-house GP, considered British and Welsh Rowing’s advice and found out what other clubs are doing. Our priority is to keep everyone as healthy as we can for as long as we can. We’ll keep reviewing the position as circumstances change. PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY and cooperate fully.

1. If you are unwell, and especially if you have a fever and/or persistent cough OR if you have been in close contact with someone who does, PLEASE DO NOT COME DOWN TO THE CLUB.

2. If you develop symptoms as above OR test positive for Covid-19 and have been at the club in the last two weeks, please contact a member of the committee ASAP.

3. All members (including coxes and those attending for ergs/ gym use) MUST wash their hands thoroughly with hot water and soap ON ARRIVAL and IMMEDIATELY AFTER PUTTING BOATS AWAY or using the GYM / ERGS. A quick rinse in the sink in the boat house does not count!

4. If you are in a high-risk group (older members or anyone with a compromised immune system or ongoing health concerns, or if you’re caring for anyone in these groups), think carefully about whether you should come down to the club. This is a matter for you, so use your best judgment and keep an eye on public health advice.

5. CLEAN ALL EQUIPMENT especially oar handles, gates, launch handles and any surfaces you touch thoroughly both BEFORE and AFTER use. We will ensure that there are facilities for doing this as soon as possible; we’re discussing the best way to do this. It may be a day or two before we’ve figured this bit out and got suitable detergent in place. Ergs and gym equipment should be wiped down using the blue antiseptic wipes both before and after use.

We have decided to let you make your own decision about land training. Some clubs have stopped land training altogether and discouraged socialising at the club before and after rowing, confining contact to the minimum. We have decided not to do this but to let each person / crew decide for themselves. Please exercise common sense! We’ll be in touch if there’s any change.

So far the response from the membership has been positive; everyone seems happy with the position we’ve taken and I’ve had several emails from people thanking us for it (rare, as anyone on a committee of any kind will know!)

Who knows where we’ll be with all this in a week or two? The next thing we’ll have to do is consider our regatta, which takes place in late May, around the time of the predicted peak. At the time of writing I believe the Vets’ Head is still on, though I understand they’re keeping the situation under review. It’s always an incredibly hard call to cancel an event (especially when we rely so heavily on events for our income).

As for the idea of telling our over-70s to self-isolate and not come to the club… well, let’s just say I’m glad I’m not the one delivering the news to them! Maybe they can follow the lead of these guys and self-isolate on the water…

In all seriousness, I hope we can all stay safe and well. I know lots of us are worried about elderly relatives and friends with health issues that could make the next few months a dangerous time.

So till next time, stay safe, enjoy your rowing if you get any. Oh, and happy birthday. Twice.

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