Gyms could safely re-open with just two weeks notice

12 May 2020, 11:56

Gyms are ready to re-open following the lockdown
Gyms are ready to re-open following the lockdown. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Gyms could be set to re-open as soon as next month, the boss of a leading fitness chain has suggested.

Fitness clubs were among the businesses required to close under the coronavirus lockdown rules after fears the virus could be spread in the venues.

But the boss of one gym chain has said they are ready to re-open with just two weeks notice as the public are "yearning" for structured exercise.

Glenn Earlam, the chief executive of David Lloyd Clubs, said it has drawn up detailed cleaning and safety plans for its 100 UK sites.

Read more: Cinema chain will 'physically isolate family groups' to re-open in July

He added he was "struggling to understand the logic" of letting shopping centres re-open before gyms.

Under new Government guidelines published on Tuesday, some high street stores are set to reopen from June 1, including those currently considered "non-essential", such as fashion or homeware retailers.

But other businesses, such as pubs, hairdressers and "leisure facilities" will have to wait until July before they can reopen.

But exercise could come in the form of personal trainers who will be allowed to provide one-on-one sessions with clients outside as part of the updated rules, Number 10 said.

"Yes, a personal trainer can have a session in a park with one client," the PM's spokesman said.

Asked about what nightclub, pub, gym and other leisure-sector staff should do while they wait until at least July for their workplaces to open, the PM's spokesman added: "The Chancellor's support package remains in place for that group of people.

"The Chancellor has obviously set out that he wants to ensure there is no cliff edge as he looks at the next steps in relation to the furloughing scheme.

"We understand that people will want certainty but we have, based on the scientific and medical advice available to us, provided as much information as we can at that point.

"The PM has been very honest about the fact the steps we have announced are conditional. We are not going to do anything which risks taking the R above 1.0 and leads to a second spike that might overwhelm the NHS."

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But gym boss Mr Earlam said "It's not entirely clear but the way we're reading the document is the earliest date at which we could open the whole of our clubs would be July 4.

"It's not straightforward and it's not particularly clear what the guidance is."

He said the company was "still looking" at "how practical" it was to open some tennis courts from Wednesday.

But he went on: "If we could open a whole outdoor offering involving group exercise, involving tennis courts, swimming pools, we have outdoor catering areas, then it would be a much better stronger proposition from our point of view.

"The outdoor component we believe we could open relatively easily and in a very safe environment.

"I think this is at the moment something people are yearning for."

David Lloyd Clubs has more than 600,000 members and 100 clubs in the UK, as well as a further 15 across Ireland and continental Europe.

Mr Earlam also said the company had done a "huge amount of work" on making indoors safe.

He went on: "The idea is people would greet you when you arrive, hand sanitisation, controlling numbers in and out of the building a bit like supermarkets ... creating social distancing, wiping everything down after it's been used, after group exercise classes there would be a whole cleaning regime at the end of each class."

There would also be Perspex screens to protect reception staff, rules on sharing equipment and staggered break-times to protect workers, most of whom are on furlough, he added.

Boris Johnson: The easing of the lockdown is conditional

Mr Earlam went on: "The thing that is different about health and fitness, as the chief medical officer has said several times, it is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from the virus.

"I'm struggling to understand the logic why opening a shopping centre would be safer than opening one of our facilities."