Of course, popping out for a pint with your mates is a means of feeling good about life. But, at a time when the UK is suffering an obesity crisis and people are looking for ways to stay fit and healthy as we continue to fight a life-threatening pandemic, is it really wise to reopen pubs before gyms and health centres?
As the government announced further changes to the restrictions that have been imposed on businesses and individuals since March, the gym, health and leisure industry waited to hear when their doors could reopen to the public.
Fully expecting to reopen
Cinemas, pubs and hairdressers are all allowed to resume business on 4 July. Those within the health and leisure sector fully expected to follow the same timeline.
Here at Kelsey Kerridge, we have been ready to reopen for weeks, after following industry guidelines to the letter. Our workforce was ready to welcome people back. Social distancing restrictions are carefully planned. The entire place is – and will always be – cleaned to the strictest standard of hygiene we can attain.
Click here for details of the measures Kelsey Kerridge will have in place.
Disappointment and bemusement
And then, boom, just like that, the news came that there was to be no reopening for our sector yet. And, across the industry, people are scratching their heads in weary, disappointed bemusement.
It is certainly not a decision that follows the science. A rigorous study was carried out in Norway, involving 3,764 members of the public aged between 18-64. The results concluded that “there is no threat of increased Covid-19 spread at fitness facilities, even when intensive training takes place.”
The reason for the government’s decision is because the sector has been classified as a “close proximity” business. This is despite several attempts by some of the industry’s leaders, including Paralympian and chair of ukActive Tanni Grey-Thompson, to explain the detailed operating procedures that gyms will adhere to in order to keep the public safe.
Tough talk from Tanni
Talking on the BBC 5pm News programme, Grey-Thompson said: “We are just asking the government to think again. The sector has been amazing in the way it’s worked together. We’ve had really detailed plans in with the government since 7 May. In fact, the sector started looking at this and planning as we went into lockdown, so we are prepared.
“We want to reopen safely,” she said, “we’re very concerned that our contribution to the economy and to health and wellbeing seems to have been forgotten.”
The gym and leisure sector has not been helped by the circulation of many unsubstantiated claims about the risk of Covid-19 spreading in a gym environment.
Chief among these myths:
Myth 1 Covid-19 can be spread through sweat.
We say – There is NO evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted through sweat.
Myth 2 Covid-19 can be transmitted in areas which are hot and humid.
We say – There is NO evidence that Covid-19 is more transmutable in a hot, humid climate than any other climate.
Myth 3 Covid-19 will remain on the surfaces of gym equipment.
We say – Covid-19 can stay on certain surfaces for two or three days. However, these are easily removed by cleaning and we have stepped up our cleaning services in line with guidance.
Gyms reopen across Europe
In mainland Europe, gym giant PureGym has opened 230 sites, which has given the gym chain the perfect opportunity to test out the same protocols that facilities such as Kelsey Kerridge will be adopting. Gym owners and managers across the UK have been in detailed discussions with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as well as industry experts such as Professor Greg Whyte. It is hard to see what more can be done.
Among the measures that the sector has pledged to take – and which you can see in full operation at Kelsey Kerridge – are robust social distancing measures and rigorous hygiene and sanitisation measures.
Bad news for economy and public health
Continuing to keep gym and health centres closed will have multiple and serious ramifications. Several hundred gyms are at risk of closure, which will hit the economy hard. It will also mean hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost.
Then there is the impact on public health. There is little doubt that further delays to opening will lead to the permanent closure of many facilities. Whole communities or social groups will find themselves without a health or leisure facility. The social value of the leisure market has been valued at £3.3bn based on benefits to the public’s health and well-being.
Baroness Grey-Thompson and the industry leaders will continue to urge the government to allow gyms and health clubs to re-open. And we want to reassure all our customers that we are absolutely ready to welcome you back as soon as possible.