Gyms won't reopen despite outdoor sports returning from March 29

FITNESS fans won’t be able to hit the gym next month despite outdoor sports expected to return from March 29.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will update the nation today with his roadmap out of lockdown, giving families key dates for when businesses will reopen.

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The easing of restrictions are expected to start with schools reopening from March 8.

It's then thought the rules will be further relaxed on March 29, when either six people or two households will be able to meet outside.

Outdoor sports, such as golf and tennis, are also expected to return on this date – but we don’t know yet when gyms will reopen.

Speaking on LBC this morning, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi declined to say when indoor fitness facilities could start welcoming customers back.

He said: "The simple way to look at this is that outdoor is safer and therefore we prioritise versus indoor.

"Outdoor sports – tennis, golf, outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football – will go back on March 29."

Pushed on when gyms could reopen, he added: "At the moment, it's outdoors versus indoors. 

“Outdoors is the priority because it's where the transmission rates are much, much, much lower."

Owners of the nation's biggest gym groups have been calling on the government to give them a date for reopening as part of the roadmap.

Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of PureGym, told Sky News this morning that gyms should reopen as members are "desperate to get back for benefits of physical and mental well-being”.

He added: “It is all very well to hear tennis and golf are reopening, but let's be honest, those are rich people sports." 

A similar plea has been issued by Richard Darwin, chief executive of the The Gym Group, who said: “The link between exercise and mental health is well understood – our members rely on working out in our gyms to improve their state of mind.”

As part of the roadmap out of lockdown, non-essential retail is expected to reopen from the end of April, followed by pubs and restaurants before May.

The rest of lockdown restrictions will be eased in May and June with inside mixing and drinking, so it is likely gyms will have reopened by then.

There are hopes Brits could then enjoy a sense of normality by July, when every adult will have been offered a coronavirus jab first dose.

We won’t know for sure how soon the coronavirus restrictions will be lifted until the PM has officially unveiled his roadmap.

After the first lockdown, gyms did not reopen in England until July 25 – three weeks after hairdressers, pubs and restaurants.

But after the second lockdown ended on December 2, they opened again immediately.

Before the third lockdown came into force on January 5, indoor gyms had been told to stay shut in Tier 4 areas, although outdoor gyms could remain open.

Gyms were allowed to stay open for solo exercises in places under Tier 3 restrictions, but group workouts were banned.

What rules will you have to follow at the gym?

We don't know what rules will be in place at gyms after lockdown is lifted.

While operating before the latest lockdown, gyms had to follow coronavirus-safe guidance from industry association, UK Active.

David Lloyd published the following Covid restrictions:

  • Reduced capacity in gyms, while increasing space between equipment to 2m, as well as adding a one-way system.
  • Provided additional gym space, with individual workout areas of 3m x 3m.
  • Limited bookings for group exercise classes to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Reduced the number of swimmers in pools – where people swim at 5m intervals.
  • Fewer members are allowed in certain areas at any one time to ensure everyone can practice social distancing.
  • Plastic screens introduced to reception desks to protect members and staff.
  • Signage and clear floor markings help members to remain a safe distance apart, with staff available to provide support.

UK Active also advises:

  • Rigorous cleaning and disinfection procedures to minimise risk of contact transmission.
  • Hand wipes/sanitisers on offer at reception.
  • Customers should arrive swim or gym ready, to avoid using showers.
  • Users should not be working out face-to-face.

The PM last week told ministers there will be no backsliding on his goal of getting kids back to class from March 8 – despite a mutiny by Sage scientists.

Sir Jeremy Farrar said Covid infections must be cut from the current 750,000 to just 9,000 “before we can think about lifting restrictions”.

Meanwhile, Prof John Edmunds said opening schools could push the R rate above 1, and some restrictions will be needed until Christmas.

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