Wales reopens gyms and indoor play areas as lockdown restrictions ease

10 August 2020, 15:03

Gyms and other indoor areas in Wales have reopened after a further easing of lockdown restrictions
Gyms and other indoor areas in Wales have reopened after a further easing of lockdown restrictions. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres and indoor fitness studios have reopened in Wales as the country's Covid-19 restrictions are further eased.

The facilities were closed alongside other non-essential businesses in March as the UK headed into the lockdown.

Unlike the rest of the UK, children's indoor play areas can open their doors but some facilities that cannot be easily cleaned, such as ball pits, are being told to remain shut.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said following the rules is "essential" if the country is to avoid following other parts of the world and entering another lockdown.

"As more parts of our society and economy reopen, it is vital we all keep in mind our personal responsibility to do the right thing and make sure we continue to protect ourselves and others from the virus," he said.

"This means keeping a two-metre distance from others, washing our hands often and wearing a face mask on public transport. These are simple steps to take that benefit us all.

"The rules we have in place are not optional, they are there to protect us all. They are essential if Wales is to avoid another lockdown."

He added: "As we have seen in many places around the world, this pandemic is far from over and we must remain vigilant. There is a significant risk cases in Wales could rise again and we will have to take further action if this were to happen.

"Only by us all continuing to do our part can we keep Wales safe."

Read more: 100 days of coronavirus lockdown: Key moments and events

Staff at Parc Play - an indoor soft play area in Cardiff - told LBC News they "can't wait" to see children playing again and "have a bit of freedom" after lockdown.

The Welsh Government said it is "continuing to explore" whether people from multiple households - not already in a support bubble - can be allowed to meet indoors from this weekend.

Last week, pubs and restaurants in Wales were also able to open indoors amid fears of a significant number of permanent business closures in the country.

Read more: More than 22,000 restaurant jobs slashed since start of coronavirus pandemic

The owner of SimplyGym, Richard Proctor, welcomed the reopening of his gym in Wrexham.

He told LBC News that although social distancing rules would make the experience of the gym different in the short-term, it would be "equally as good" as before lockdown.

The latest easing of the restrictions signals a faster exit from lockdown compared to neighbouring countries England and Scotland.

Over the weekend, 46 new Covid-19 cases and one virus-related death was reported in Wales - lower than previous several weekends.

The government has also boosted powers given to local authorities to ensure newly reopened businesses and workplaces comply with new Covid-19 laws.

They include making sure people keep a two-metre distance where possible and taking measures to avoid close interaction, such as protective screens, wearing face coverings on public transport and accessibility to hand sanitiser.

Enforcement officers will be allowed to issue a Premises Improvement Notice to highlight breaches of the rules and state what measures need be taken in order to comply with them, or face being temporarily shut down.

Signs will be displayed in a prominent place for businesses or workplaces that are given a Premises Closure Notice informing the public that improvement is needed or that it has had to close.

The rate of infection in England - known as the R number - may be tipping over 1 and has prompted widespread concern among the scientific community and government advisors.

At the end of July, further easing of lockdown restrictions in the country were paused due to a spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases.

In parts of northern England and Leicester, extra measures remain in place to prevent a surge in infections in the region.