The government has announced the latest easing of England’s lockdown, with gyms, pools, leisure centres and outdoor sport all set to reopen this month. UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden urged people to “work out to help out”.
Outdoor pools will be allowed to reopen from Saturday 11 July, while indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities may open from Saturday 25 July.
This will be subject to new guidance on distancing and cleaning equipment, as well as limiting the number of people in facilities and reducing the number of class sizes – it may require booking systems to be put in place for facilities and equipment.
Changing rooms will be severely prohibited. According to guidance, venues “should encourage attendees to arrive at the facility in sports kit and where possible to travel home to change/showers”.
“Use of changing rooms and showering facilities should in general be avoided where possible although these must be available for participants with disabilities or special needs and are likely to be needed after swimming.”
Steam rooms will not be open, the use of shared objects will be discouraged
Gymgoers will not be required to wear a face mask to work out.
Saunas and steam rooms will not be open, and the use of shared objects (such as towels, balls, weights and scoring equipment) will be discouraged unless they can be cleaned or sanitised between users.
Venues have been told to ensure any water fountains have signage which prohibits face-to-tap drinking, and to stress that these facilities are used only to refill personal bottles.
They have also been advised to improving cleaning and provide hand sanitiser throughout the venue, ensure that there is better ventilation and to provide temporary floor markings for exercise or dance studios.
Pools and gyms are being instructed to keep a temporary record of customers and visitors for 21 days, in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19 linked to the facility.
Supporters will also be allowed to attend fixtures in small numbers
Certain team sports, such as cricket, will be allowed to return from 11 July, contingent on the ruling or organising body demonstrating Covid-secure plans to the government, and must recognise that recreational sport may need to be paused in the event of a raised Covid-19 threat level.
Supporters will also be allowed to attend community fixtures in small numbers, provided they are in groups of two households only, or no larger than six people from different households. They must also adhere to social distancing measures at all time.
Dance studios and sports like badminton and volleyball should be allowed from 25 July.
We’ll be giving gyms the certainty, clarity and time to reopen safely
– Oliver Dowden
At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Dowden said: “We pressed pause [in March] on many of the things that brighten our lives, but as we’ve made huge progress against this disease, we’ve gradually seen the things we love return; normal life is slowly returning.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly put renewed focus on his own health and tackling the nation’s obesity levels.
Mr Dowden said: “Exercise is incredibly important for both physical and mental health. Even at the height of the lockdown it was considered an essential activity.
“Of course, we hoped to do this sooner but we really do have to face this properly. We’ll be giving gyms the certainty, clarity and time to reopen safely so the maximum can open their doors in two weeks times.”
However, the re-opening priorities set by the government have faced some criticism. Humphrey Cobbold, the chief executive of PureGym, said: “It is a strange war on obesity that sees pubs and restaurants open before gyms.”