UK leisure chiefs have slammed ‘completely illogical’ plans to keep gyms, swimming pools and sports centres closed while pubs reopen from the coronavirus lockdown.
Bosses said it was ‘a strange “war on obesity” that sees pubs and restaurants open before gyms’ after Ministers said they hope to reopen indoor centres in mid-July.
‘Close proximity’ businesses including nightclubs, casinos, soft play centres, indoor gyms, nail bars and beauty salons will also remain shut, as well as bowling alleys.
Gym chiefs at UK chains said letting pubs and restaurants reopen while keeping exercise facilities closed could lead to people becoming more at risk of Covid-19.
Nearly 90,000 people have signed a petition urging the Government to ‘rethink’ their decision to keep gyms shut and to ‘come to an agreement to reopen them’.
UK leisure chiefs have slammed ‘completely illogical’ plans to keep gyms closed (file picture)
Leisure bosses said it was ‘a strange “war on obesity” that sees pubs open before gyms’ (file)
An outdoor gym which is closed in Leicester, on March 26. These facilities will reopen on July 4
Glenn Earlam, chief executive of David Lloyd Clubs, which has 100 venues across Britain, said it was a ‘completely illogical’ move to open pubs first on July 4.
He said: ‘So what we hear is that pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen, but health and fitness facilities won’t be able to.
‘To us this is bizarre because we are part of the solution. If people come to health and fitness facilities it helps boost their immune system.
‘The chief medical officer has regularly said that health and fitness is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from Covid-19.’
A spokesman for PureGym, one of the UK’s largest operators with more than one million members, said: ‘We understand that these decisions are not easy, but it is a strange ‘war on obesity’ that sees pubs and restaurants open before gyms.
‘Our facilities are, on average, the size of five or six doubles tennis courts and are exceptionally well ventilated, enabling people to work and exercise safely and securely.’
Former Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne has warned the industry could lose 50,000 jobs if gyms remain closed.
Mr Bannatyne, who runs 72 gyms and health clubs across the UK, accused scientists of ‘playing God with our lives’ as he demanded clarity. His business is losing £2.5million a month due to their closure.
Mark Sesnan, managing director of GLL, which operates 270 leisure and sports facilities on behalf of local authorities in the UK, said the plans were ‘misguided and short-sighted’.
He added: ‘The Government has made a potentially catastrophic mistake by leaving community leisure centres, indoor gyms and swimming pools off the list of businesses that can reopen on July 4, nor given any indication when they might reopen.
‘We all enjoy a pint. But if pubs and restaurants can reopen it defies logic that indoor sports and leisure facilities remain closed – particularly public facilities designed to serve local communities.’
And ex-England captain Michael Vaughan, who has previously called on the England and Wales Cricket Board to do more to get amateur and youth cricket going again, was unimpressed by the ‘nonsense’ of upholding the ban on the game for now.
He tweeted: ‘Hand sanitiser in every players pocket … Use every time you touch the ball … SIMPLE … Recreational Cricket should just play from July 4th … utter nonsense it’s not being allowed back.’
Asked in the Commons about cricket, Mr Johnson said: ‘The ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially at any rate, and we’ve been round it many times with our scientific friends. At the moment we’re still working on ways to make cricket more Covid-secure, but we can’t change the guidance yet.’
Parts of the beauty sector will remain shut including spas, nail bars, tattoo parlours, beauty salons and massage parlours.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, who has previously called on the England and Wales Cricket Board to do more to get amateur and youth cricket going again, was unimpressed by the ‘nonsense’ of upholding the ban on the game for now
Notices on exercise equipment at a now-closed gym in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, on March 20
Richard Craig, of CrossFit Hackney, lifts weights at London Fields park in East London in May
Bowling alleys, water parks and casinos will also not be allowed to reopen.
Indoor sports and dance venues and skating rinks will stay closed but outdoor gyms will be allowed to reopen.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said many people were ‘keen to hit the gym’ but the aspiration was to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in mid-July.
Live performances at concert halls and theatres are also still banned, partly due to the risk posed by singing in spreading the virus. Outdoor gyms and playgrounds will be returned to use.
Mr Dowden said: ‘Many people keen to hit the gym and keeping Britain fit is key in Covid battle.
‘We’ve made lots of progress and I know steps businesses have taken to make their spaces and equipment safe.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reveals what industries are allowed to reopen while giving a statement in the House of Commons in London yesterday
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said it was an ‘aspiration’ to reopen indoor fitness within weeks, after they were left off a list of venues that will be allowed to reopen on July 4
‘Subject to public health, our aspiration is to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in mid-July.’
It is understood gyms are not yet allowed to open because of the level activity that goes on and the number of surfaces touched, which is said to pose a ‘far greater risk’ of catching coronavirus.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘We will be working hard with these sectors to allow them to open as soon as we can. We need to make sure it is safe.’
Boris Johnson told the House of Commons yesterday that ‘difficult judgements’ had been made in deciding which firms were able to reopen.
Addressing close-proximity businesses such as nightclubs, Mr Johnson added that taskforces with public health experts will help them reopen ‘as soon as possible’.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said many people were ‘keen to hit the gym’ but the aspiration was to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in mid-July
The trade body representing the night-time economy has welcomed the decision to allow some businesses to reopen, but warned that many businesses will struggle.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NITA) called on the Government to give further financial support to businesses in the sector.
He said: ‘For many of our members, including nightclubs, casinos and some pubs, restaurants and bars that can’t meet the one-metre social distancing obligations, the nightmare of enforced closure goes on.
‘Businesses operating in the night-time economy have needs distinct from those operating in more general hospitality and it would be unforgivable if those needs are not taken into account by Government.’