Twenty-six patrons at a time will be allowed into Balmain’s Dawn Fraser Baths when it reopens after a two-year, $8 million refurbishment.

Anyone who lives within a five-kilometre radius of the baths (bar residents of LGAs of concern) or in the Inner West Council area will be allowed to swim for an hour at a time. Numbers will be managed by an online booking system, and bookings are free for the first two weeks. Swimmers can choose between the 50-metre pool for lap swimming or the “beach” area for more leisurely swims.

Since lockdown began, many residents of the Inner West LGA haven’t had the option to swim, due to travel restrictions. And while ocean baths and beaches have been open, a lack of clarity in the Covid-19 public health order around what constitutes a “natural swimming pool” meant Dawnie’s remained closed. But NSW health minister Brad Hazzard has now added an amendment to the order that specifically states the pool can open.

“Being able to swim and enjoy Australia's oldest and most beautiful harbourside pool will really lift the spirts of local people,” said Inner West Council’s mayor Darcy Byrne in a statement. "With beaches having been cut off and public pools closed many regular swimmers had lost their most important source of physical exercise and mental relief, right at the time that they needed it most.”

To remain Covid-safe, swimmers won’t be able to access changerooms, toilets, or showers, and aren’t allowed to sunbake. They’ll have to start their swim as soon as they arrive and leave as they finish. And the pool will be divided into lanes and the “beach” area will be split into sections to ensure physical distancing is possible. Guests are also limited to two bookings a week.