Gyms and swimming pools to reopen as government eases coronavirus lockdown
The government has given the go-ahead for gyms and swimming pools to reopen in England as part of its next phase of lockdown easing.
Outdoor swimming pools will be allowed to reopen from Saturday, the government announced.
Indoor gyms, indoor swimming pools and other sports facilities will follow on 25 July.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has also published guidance to enable competitive grassroots team sports to resume, beginning with cricket at the weekend.
Outdoor arts performances – including theatres, opera, dance and music – will also be able to resume from the weekend, although audience numbers will be restricted and will be subject to social distancing rules.
Digital, culture, media and sport secretary Oliver Dowden said the latest easing of restrictions has been enabled by “huge progress” in containing the coronavirus.
“Normal life is slowly returning,” Dowden said at a press conference in Downing Street on Thursday.
Meanwhile, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and “other close contact services” will also be able to reopen on Monday.
It comes after businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers were allowed to reopen on Saturday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak had hinted at the move to reopen gyms while unveiling his new Eat Out to Help Out vouchers in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Speaking in the Commons, the DUP's Sammy Wilson joked: "I think the clothes shops might welcome it as well, as once we've eaten our way through a month's half-priced meals, we might all be visiting them.”
The chancellor replied: "Perhaps alongside 'eat out to help out', we can make progress on reopening our gyms so at the same time we can deal with that side of the equation.”
Tory former minister Tim Loughton added the government's message should be "eat out to help out to work out”.
Sunak said: "I wholeheartedly agree with him about gyms and hopefully, as the prime minister has indicated previously, he's keen to see progress made there as well.”
Last week, Boris Johnson said gyms will be reopen "in a couple of weeks”, telling LBC: "We are going to reopen gyms as soon as we can do it in a COVID-secure way and I think that the date for reopening gyms at the moment, if we can do it, is in just a couple of weeks' time."
Outdoor gyms have already reopened but there were government fears that indoor gyms were more likely to spread coronavirus.
A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: "Gyms have posed a particular challenge because of the nature of their business.
"They basically involve having a large number of people indoors, sharing equipment and getting out of breath.
"When you are dealing with a respiratory virus that is obviously a challenge."
The boss of one Britain's largest gym chains had earlier vowed the company was "ready to go" as soon as they got the green light from government.
Anytime Fitness UK's CEO Neil Randall said various safety measures at his premises have already been planned out and implemented.
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