People in England were today given the green light to return to fitness and personal grooming appointments as ministers announced that nail bars and gyms will reopen this month.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden set out the latest easing of lockdown rules as he said people can head back to the gym from July 25.
Meanwhile, tanning salons, tattoo parlours and other so-called ‘close contact services’ will be allowed to welcome back customers from Monday.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Dowden said outdoor swimming pools can reopen on Saturday as he also published guidance to enable competitive grassroots team sports to resume, beginning with cricket this weekend.
Outdoor arts performances – including theatres, opera, dance and music – will also be able to resume from Saturday although audience numbers will be restricted and will be subject to social distancing rules.
A pilot programme will be launched to figure out how to return to socially distanced indoor performances ‘as soon as possible’, Mr Dowden said.
Planning rules will be changed so that theatres, concert halls and live music venues will be protected from demolition, stopping those that have been made temporarily vacant during lockdown from disappearing altogether.
Mr Dowden said ‘normal life is slowly returning’, telling the press conference: ‘Having allowed hairdressers to reopen, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close contact services can now do the same, I’m pleased to say, from Monday.
‘Of course that will be subject to some restrictions on particularly high-risk services.’
Oliver Dowden today announced that gyms in England will be allowed to reopen from July 25
Mr Dowden said people will ‘no longer have to work out in their park or on their living room floor’
Tanning salons in England will be able to reopen on Monday next week after being closed since March
Nail bars, beauticians, spas and tattoo parlours will also be allowed to welcome back customers from Monday
In other coronavirus developments in the UK today:
- Thousands of taxi drivers, cleaners and shop workers will be tested for Covid-19 from tomorrow as part of a new trial — even if they have no symptoms, the Department of Health revealed;
- The Government failed to hit its target of sending everyone their coronavirus test results within 24 hours by the end of June, with just over half of all test results (55 per cent) received within a day of swabbing;
- British holidaymakers jetting to Ibiza or Majorca will have to wear face masks whenever they leave their hotel rooms from Saturday or face a £90 fine;
- Nearly 60,000 workers face redundancy as Boots, John Lewis, Rolls Royce and Burger King announce layoffs just hours after Rishi Sunak’s £30bn bailout that was supposed to save the High Street post-Covid.
Mr Dowden said the July 25 reopening date for gyms would also see indoor swimming pools and leisure centres allowed to get back up and running.
He said fitness is ‘incredibly important for both physical and mental health’ as he outlined the Government’s plans to get people back in the gym.
‘Even at the height of the lockdown it was considered an essential activity with countless people hitting their parks for their daily run or transforming their living rooms into temporary gyms,’ he said.
‘From this weekend onwards millions of people will be able to rejoin their local sports teams as soon as their organisations publish approve guidance.
‘Recreational cricket is back on this weekend. Five a side football, basketball, hockey and countless other sports will follow shortly after.
‘And from this Saturday they will also be able to enjoy outdoor pools and water parks.
‘From Saturday July 25 people will no longer have to work out in their park or on their living room floor, they will be able to get back into their gyms, their indoor swimming pools, their leisure centres and jump on that spin bike or treadmill for the first time in months.’
UK announces 85 more coronavirus deaths
Britain today announced 85 more coronavirus deaths as promising data revealed Northern Ireland has now gone a week without recording any Covid-19 fatalities.
Department of Health chiefs say the official death toll — which only takes into account lab-confirmed fatalities and not suspected ones — now stands at 44,602 with the worst days of the crisis now over.
Just 89 deaths were recorded last Thursday, meaning the daily toll has barely changed in a week. But the average number of deaths has dropped 20 per cent since then — from 110 to 87.
Separate data released today from a government surveillance testing scheme, which has swabbed thousands of households in England, suggests the outbreak is still shrinking but only slowly.
Just 0.03 per cent of the population are currently infected — or one in every 3,900 people — down from 0.04 per cent last week and 0.09 per cent a week before, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Mr Dowden insisted that people would still be able to have ‘fun’ when they exercise despite many activities likely to be subject to strict rules.
‘The judgment we’ve taken with this (pubs) and swimming pools and elsewhere is it is better to reopen with those restrictions than not reopen at all,’ he said.
‘Of course it is going to take a while for people’s confidence to build, it is rarely the case that you pull up the shutter and everyone comes rushing in.
‘But equally the experience in the UK and elsewhere is that over time people have gained confidence and have started to engage more.’
Mr Dowden also urged the nation to give their support to the struggling arts sector in the coming months.
He said: ‘I’m really urging people to get out there and to play their part: buy the tickets for outdoor plays and musical recitals, get to your local gallery and support your local businesses.
‘Our fight began with a collective effort and I really hope it will end with one. At the beginning we all stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives, now the British public has a new part to play.
‘It’s time to eat out to help out, to enjoy the arts to help out and to work out to help out. It’s over to all of you to help the country recover safely.’
Mr Dowden’s announcement came after Nicola Sturgeon announced a wave of changes for Scotland as she further eased lockdown north of the border.
The changes mean that hairdressers, indoor pubs and restaurants, museums, and galleries can all reopen on July 15.
Places of worship will be able to reopen for communal prayer and congregational services on the same day but there will be restrictions on numbers, singing and chanting.
The Government has been facing increasing pressure from MPs and the fitness industry to announce the return of the nation’s gyms.
Mr Dowden had earlier today told the House of Commons that he intended to make an announcement ‘imminently’ on the issue.
He had said that gyms had ‘engaged very constructively’ with the Government to ‘overcome some of the hurdles’ to them welcoming back customers.
He had said: ‘I hope to be able to make an announcement imminently in relation to that.
‘As I’ve said previously, the aim has always been to get gyms back by mid-July.’