Coronavirus: Boris Johnson resists calls to exempt gyms, tennis, golf and swimming from lockdown

·3-min read

Boris Johnson has resisted calls to keep gyms, tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools open during England's impending national lockdown.

Under the new restrictions due to come into force from Thursday, the prime minister has ordered indoor and outdoor sports and leisure facilities to close.

Sporting bodies in England have sought to challenge the government's shutdown, but the prime minister offered them little hope of success as he addressed the House of Commons on Monday.

Answering questions from MPs, Mr Johnson suggested that unpicking parts of the lockdown would mean "the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised".

Conservative MP James Sunderland told the prime minister he had been contacted by many constituents concerned about the closure of gyms, golf clubs and tennis clubs

"Given the proven benefits of exercise and the lack of any clear evidence that these activities have contributed to an increase in the R rate, might the prime minister be willing to reconsider the current guidance within the next four weeks?," the Bracknell MP asked.

But Mr Johnson replied: "Once you unpick at one thing, alas, the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised.

"That is why I want everybody to work together for the next four weeks, as I say, to get the R under control so that we can open things up again in time for December."

Another Tory MP, Stephen Metcalfe, asked the prime minister to review the rules around socially distanced outdoor sports such as golf and tennis.

Labour MP Kevan Jones urged Mr Johnson to publish the scientific data behind the decision to close sports facilities, as he highlighted the "valiant efforts" of golf clubs and gyms to ensure they are COVID-safe.

And Conservative MP Peter Aldous asked the prime minister to rethink the rules on activities such as outdoor swimming "that can take place in a socially distanced and responsible way".

Mr Johnson said the government would "look at any exceptions that we can sensibly make", but he added: "It is difficult to take out one part of the Jenga block without disturbing the whole package."

Under the government's guidance for England's second lockdown, people have been told they can exercise or visit outdoor public places with the people they live with, their support bubble, or one person from another household.

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The Lawn Tennis Association had been urging the government to allow outdoor tennis to continue, in line with those restrictions.

But it said in a statement on Monday: "The government have today indicated that they won't be allowing outdoor tennis courts to open in England during the period of the new national restrictions that come into force from Thursday.

"This is hugely disappointing for all those who love tennis up and down the country.

"We will continue to put our case to them ahead of the formal legislation detailing the restrictions during lockdown, which is yet to be published and is due to be voted on in parliament on Wednesday.

"We will then provide an update on the definitive position of what is and isn't allowed."