Gyms and leisure centres will 'hopefully' reopen in July, says business secretary

24 June 2020, 16:15

Alok Sharma was speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari this morning
Alok Sharma was speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari this morning. Picture: LBC
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Gyms and leisure centres will "hopefully" reopen "at some point in July," Business Secretary Alok Sharma has told LBC.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Mr Sharma outlined the potential timeline for reopening gyms despite so far leaving them off the list of businesses that have been given the green light to welcome back customers.

Indoor leisure facilities have been shut since the start of the lockdown in March due to the risk they pose in spreading coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced outdoor gyms would be open for exercise on 4 July.

However, the ongoing prohibition on indoor gyms reopening has sparked concern over job losses in the sector.

Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson, in her role as chair of ukactive, wrote a letter to Mr Johnson calling on him to publish the formal reasons for not allowing indoor gyms and fitness centres to open alongside pubs, bars and restaurants at the start of next month.

Baroness Grey-Thompson also asked to meet with the chief medical officer and warned further delays to the reopening of sites could hit 100,000 jobs.

But Mr Sharma warned that gyms pose a greater risk of spreading or catching the virus.

"If you look at gyms, you’re going to be exerting yourself," he said.

"The chances of you having aerosol dispersion is going to be higher and therefore there are higher risks in certain close proximity settings.

"We want to move to a position where we can open gyms and leisure facilities and we hope to be able to do that at some point in July.

"But that will only be able to happen if we continue to meet those five tests and people follow the guidelines that we have in place right now."

Mr Sharma was then quizzed on when swimming pools would be free to reopen, given that chlorinated water kills the virus.

He replied: "I’m sure you can give me a whole list of businesses which are not currently open and we’re having conversations with these sectors on a daily basis and we are working out with them how they can re-open safely.

"This is a balance of risks. If we were opening up too fast, I’m sure you would be putting the question to me 'Why are you going so fast?'"

The chief executive of UK Swimming, Jane Nickerson, expressed her frustration at swimming pools being put on the same list as gyms.

She said: "Many will fail to understand how pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums and hair salons have been given the go-ahead to open on 4 July but not chlorine-filled swimming pools.

"I share their frustrations and demand that the government hastily reconsiders this decision to ignore what is a lifeline to so many."

Olympic medallist Adam Peaty, speaking on Twitter, urged the prime minister to explain why pools are to be among the last things to reopen.

Peaty wrote: "Sport is so important to peoples wellbeing and most importantly mental health! If pubs open soon then so should everywhere else?"

He added: "It literally is a pool of disinfectant."

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