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01 Jul 2020

Government inspects gyms, as sector pushes hard for consent to reopen
BY Tom Walker

The delegation included deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam

The delegation included deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam
photo: www.gov.uk

Industry body ukactive has today (1 July) hosted a delegation of government and public health officials on visits to a number of gyms and leisure centres.

The delegation, which included deputy chief medical officer, professor Jonathan Van-Tam, and representatives of Sport England was given the opportunity to see firsthand how the fitness sector is setting up its facilities safely, in accordance with government regulations on social distancing – and aligned to the ukactive framework.

The move is part of efforts to convince the government to rethink its decision to keep gyms, leisure centres and other health and fitness facilities closed, while allowing pubs and restaurants to open on 4 July.

The "pubs before gyms" announcement – which looks likely to delay reopening of the activity sector until at least mid-July – has been described as "ludicrous" and has been challenged by some operators.

One of the most vocal critics has been Marc Diaper, CEO of Gymbox.

On 26 June, Diaper announced that Gymbox would reopen all its gyms on 4 July, unless the UK government explains why he should not.

"Pubs opening before gyms is outrageous given the huge health benefits exercise brings," Diaper said.

"Perhaps if we change our name from Gymbox to Ginbox, Boris will let us open?"

In a short statement after the government delegation's tour today, ukactive said: "Following this constructive visit, we'll be working with government and health officials to finalise the process for the reopening of the sector."

Following the visits, sports minister Oliver Dowden tweeted: "Grateful to health experts from Public Health England for visiting gyms this morning with ukactive to look at the safety measures in place.

"Gyms have been working hard on this and I pay tribute to all those helping to get them reopened as soon as we can."

The visit is part of strenuous efforts to influence the government to rethink its approach and allow gyms to get back to business.

On 24 June, Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair of ukactive, Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of Pure Gym and Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, appeared on BBC to challenge the government.

In a doubleheader interview on the BBC’s 5.00 o'clock news programme, Grey-Thompson and Cobbold made the case for reopening, explaining how operating procedures will work. They also highlighted the economic impact of the sector, which employs 600,000 people, serves 10m members and turns over £7.7bn a year.

The appearance followed Grey-Thompson's open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, which called on him to justify his decision with science, allow the sector access to the chief medical officer and formally explain the reasons for not allowing reopening.



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