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Victory for fitness fans as gyms could reopen as soon as April 12

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Gym bosses were given a major boost today after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced they could reopen from England’s third national lockdown earlier than expected on April 12.

Millions of locked-down fitness fans are expected to be allowed to return to indoor leisure facilities in seven weeks’ time, in a major victory for gyms which had feared a much longer shutdown.

However, group exercise classes at leisure centres are not expected to restart until at least May 17, when restrictions will begin to be lifted for indoor gatherings. 

Reacting to the Prime Minister’s announcement to the Commons, Anytime Fitness UK called the development a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ while ukactive called the roadmap ‘vital clarity for thousands of our members’.

Just hours earlier today, gym bosses pleaded with Mr Johnson to let them reopen by May, as one chief revealed that his firm was burning through £500,000 a day during the third coronavirus shutdown.  

The Prime Minister’s announcement to the Commons this afternoon comes just hours after bosses urged him to let them reopen by May as one chief said his firm was burning through £500,000 a day.

Gyms alongside hospitality businesses have endured the toughest financial hardships during the pandemic, having been closed during the third lockdown imposed in January and last year’s two shutdowns.  

Further closures were seen at fitness centres in areas of the country falling under stricter rules in the tier system last year during a torrid 12 months for the industry. 

A staff member cleans gym equipment at a David Lloyd health club in Leicester last November

A staff member cleans gym equipment at a David Lloyd health club in Leicester last November

Speaking today, Anytime Fitness UK chief executive Neil Randall said: ‘Today’s announcement of the Government’s road map for reopening is a positive step and we acknowledge that leisure and gym facilities been given next priority after education and outdoor sport. 

‘However, we urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide a comprehensive relief package for our sector which was endured over eight months of closure in the past twelve months.

‘Over 75million visits between July 2020 and January 2021 yielded a COVID-19 prevalence rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits, which is particularly impressive when you consider the emergence of the more transmissible strain of the virus towards the end of last year.

‘At a time where we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the ongoing success of the vaccination programme, we have a duty to play our part in supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of the UK. 

‘However, with the financial support remaining as it stands, many facilities will not be able to do this with arrears mounting up.’

Gym chain ukactive said it ‘welcome[s] the news that gyms, pools and leisure centres feature in the earliest stage possible for reopening indoor venues, providing vital clarity for thousands of our members and a long-awaited boost for millions of their customers’.

Fitness fans enthused about gym reopenings from April 12 following the PM's statement

Fitness fans enthused about gym reopenings from April 12 following the PM's statement

Fitness fans enthused about gym reopenings from April 12 following the PM’s statement

Chief executive Huw Edwards told MailOnline:  ‘Today’s roadmap announcement from the Prime Minister brings important clarity to the easing of restrictions in England and, while highlighting the disruption caused by the third lockdown, we also understand the necessary caution shown around infection rates.

‘With positive news provided by the rollout of the vaccine, we hope the four-part plan for reopening society heralds the end of lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We are encouraged to see plans in stage one for the reopening of schools and school sport, which are vital for our children’s activity levels and overall wellbeing. We will support our members so they fully understand the detail behind this initial stage in the roadmap. It is also positive to see the easing of restrictions for outdoor activity overall.’   

Earlier today, PureGym chief executive Humphrey Cobbold said the company had been surviving without income for two-thirds of a year due to the restrictions.

Fitness fans enthused about gym reopenings from April 12 following the PM's statement

Fitness fans enthused about gym reopenings from April 12 following the PM's statement

Fitness fans enthused about gym reopenings from April 12 following the PM’s statement

The announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured at 10 Downing Street today) is a major boost to gyms which have suffered from a torrid year like many other industries

The announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured at 10 Downing Street today) is a major boost to gyms which have suffered from a torrid year like many other industries

The announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured at 10 Downing Street today) is a major boost to gyms which have suffered from a torrid year like many other industries

He told how the firm, which has 275 gyms in the UK and is one of the country’s largest operators, had ‘burnt through’ £120million during a ‘brutally tough’ year. 

Last week, the bosses of three gym chains – The Gym Group, David Lloyd and PureGym – called on the Government to prioritise the reopening of fitness facilities.

Chief executives at the firms previously warned that without a planned reopening announced, the nation’s physical and mental health could deteriorate.

UK Active data shared with the Government last week claimed that sites were ‘low risk’ for spreading Covid-19 and should be prioritised.

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

By comparison, 2.3million Covid-19 cases nationally were reported during the same period, with gym users recording an overall rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits.

The case rate rose from 0.1 per 100,000 visits in the week starting July 27 to a high of 4.1 at the end of the October. 

This had almost halved again by the final week of December, UK Active data showed.

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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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