'Outdoors is the priority' when relaxing lockdown, vaccines minister tells LBC

22 February 2021, 09:20

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Outdoor exercise is the priority when relaxing lockdown restrictions on gyms and sports areas, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has told LBC.

He said it was "outdoors versus indoors" when changing the Covid-19 rules over the coming months.

Asked when the fitness sector could reopen once again, he confirmed that outdoor sports at schools "will be going back" on March 8 and a range of outdoor activities would be allowed by the end of next month.

Read more: 'Rule of six' expected to return as part of Boris Johnson's 'roadmap' out of lockdown

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"On March 29 outdoor sports, tennis, golf outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football will go back and then gradually, as the Prime Minister will set out, we will begin to reopen the rest of the economy."

Mr Zahawi said the public would "have to wait" for Boris Johnson to set out the 'roadmap' out of lockdown on Monday afternoon, with four key indicators to track progress.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told LBC that it is "outdoors versus indoors" when relaxing lockdown
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told LBC that it is "outdoors versus indoors" when relaxing lockdown. Picture: PA Images

"The first test is that the vaccine deployment programme continues to run to plan," he said.

The minister said the Government would also be looking at "evidence of the vaccination actually having the impact on infections, serious infections, hospitalisations and death" as well as the infection rates across the country and how many new variants were detected.

It comes as the bosses of three of the UK's biggest gym firms have called on the Government to prioritise the reopening of fitness facilities.

Read more: Care Association chief - Staff numbers 'a real problem' when visiting resumes

Bosses at The Gym Group, David Lloyd and PureGym have warned that without a planned reopening announced, the nation's physical and mental health could deteriorate further.

Data shared with the Government earlier this week claims that sites are "low risk" for spreading Covid-19 and should be prioritised.

It showed that of 75 million visits to gyms and leisure centres between the reopening of facilities last July and the third national lockdown at the start of January, there were only 1,277 Covid-19 cases reported.

Since a new lockdown was announced in England in the new year, people have only been able to see one other person outside their household for only exercise.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce that from March 8 people will also be able to sit in an outdoor public space on a one-plus-one basis to socialise.

Read more: Covid-19 crisis in numbers: LBC brings you the stats you need to know

The PM is also anticipated to bring in the return of the rule-of-six outdoors - allowing groups up to six people from two different households to meet outdoors.

Easing the measures will be conditional based on four tests, Mr Zahawi explained, with the Government set to examine the data at each stage before unlocking further.