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23 Jun 2020

Pubs will reopen before gyms. Johnson backs away from 4 July reopening
BY Liz Terry

The government will establish a taskforce to help gyms get ready to reopen

The government will establish a taskforce to help gyms get ready to reopen
photo: Shutterstock/Neptunestock

Pubs are to open before gyms, to the bitter disappointment of the health and fitness sector.

Following a week of leaks and briefings, which indicated gyms and spa and wellness facilities would be included in the list of leisure businesses allowed to reopen on 4 July, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons today they would be omitted.

There were already signs the government was rowing back on reopening the sector, as leaks and briefings which – days earlier – had mentioned gyms and spas, began to have these removed from around mid-day yesterday.

Those permitted to reopen will include restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, campsites, visitor attractions, playgrounds, cinemas, libraries and community centres.

Recreation and sport will be allowed, but indoor facilities must remain closed and close contact sports will only be allowed between members of the same household.

Outdoor gyms are allowed to open, but this was already the case, so this is not a new concession.

On the list deemed still too dangerous by government scientists are indoor gyms, swimming pools, spas, bowling alleys, waterparks and nightclubs.

The government will offer support to the sector to help with the reopening. Johnson said: "We will establish taskforces to work with these sectors to help them become COVID-secure and allow them to reopen."

It appears that fitness industry lobbyists were making good progress in convincing government to bring gym openings forward, but that the sector has been outgunned by the hospitality lobby which has, in the space of a week, managed to get social distancing measures reduced from 2m to 1+m and got pubs and restaurants to the top of the list for reopening.

Analysts are warning that businesses fuelled by alcohol, such as pubs and bars, will find it difficult to control consumer behaviour and maintain social distancing, while gyms are already set up to deliver this level of safety.

Johnson said: "I know people will ask legitimate questions about why some activities are allowed and some are not – there is only one certainty – the fewer social contacts you have the safer you will be.

"We cannot lift all restrictions at once and have to make difficult judgements."

John Treharne, founder of The Gym Group, said: "Obviously, the prime minister's statement was a disappointment, but not unexpected. I'm sure ukactive and sector look forward to working with the government taskforce to allay any fears that they may have – for both members and staff – through the use of the protocols already prepared, so that gyms, leisure centres and studios can safely reopen ASAP.

"They are so important in helping everyone to recover from the COVID-19 virus in the coming months and to help with illnesses and virus prevention in the future."




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• MPs write to Rishi Sunak, asking for tourism support
• Government 'stepping up plans' for the return of sport



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