GYMS, pools and leisure centres were last night given the go-ahead to reopen as the country prepares to get back in shape at last.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden urged people to ‘work out to help out’ as he announced that, from Monday, nail bars, spas, tattooists and tanning salons could welcome back customers.
Outdoor pools will be allowed to reopen from tomorrow, and open air theatrical, dance and musical performances can also be held. Gyms, indoor pools and leisure centres, along with dance studios, can open from July 25.
Customers will be asked to book online and change at home.
Everyone must follow strict coronavirus health and safety guidelines. The announcement was cautiously welcomed by firms forced to close since lockdown was imposed on March 23.
However, critics warned that it could be too late for many. It comes after pubs began reopening last Saturday, and chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an ‘eat out to help out’ discount scheme on Wednesday.
Mr Dowden said: ‘The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for, with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool.
‘Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff.
‘Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.’
He insisted the measures were ‘conditional and reversible’, meaning new lockdowns could be imposed if there were local spikes in the virus.
And he urged everyone to play their part in fighting Covid-19, urging people to ‘eat out to help out, enjoy the arts to help out and work out to help out’.
The government guidance insists venues limit the number of users, encourage timed booking systems — and swimmers are banned from doing the butterfly stroke.
Smaller class sizes, supplies of hand sanitiser, enhanced cleaning and ventilation are also required, along with encouraging people to shower and change at home. Exercise and dance studios should also have floor markings, according to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Recreational sports, such as village cricket, can start tomorrow but players must show no symptoms of Covid-19 and avoid ‘unnecessary huddles’ and regularly clean equipment and facilities.
Mr Dowden said: ‘Of course, we’d have liked to have done this sooner but we really do have to phase this carefully.’
Hannah Lanel, of The Fore gym in London’s Kings Cross, said: ‘Hallelujah… but it is a bit late. To open McDonald’s and pubs before gyms in a health crisis has been so frustrating.’
Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said: ‘Today’s news is an important step forward and testament to the hard work so many have put in to preparing to restart and reopen.’
At a glance: How to play it safe
GYMS AND LEISURE CENTRES
■ Reduced class sizes and timed sessions to limit number of people using the facility at any one time.
■ Equipment will be spaced out and markings put on studio floors to encourage social distancing.
■ Clients and staff encouraged to shower and change at home.
■ Ensure an appropriate number of people in pool at any one time.
■ Butterfly stroke is banned.
■ Contact details of participants must be collected to help with test and trace efforts.
■ Players, officials, volunteers and spectators must self-assess for any virus-like symptoms.
■ Avoid equipment sharing and handshakes or huddles.
■ Clean balls when out of play, to minimise infection risk.
■ Six-person limit in clubhouses and bars.
■ Try to ensure 2m distancing; if not possible, wear a visor.
■ Keep activity time as brief as possible and work side-to-side or back-to-back, not face-to-face.
■ Use screens or barriers to separate clients.
■ Reduce venue capacity and limit ticket sales.
■ Online tickets sales only.
■ Only performers should sing or play instruments.
‘Time for hope and optimism’ as Scotland opens up
SCOTS will be able to meet friends at their homes and stay overnight from today, while hairdressers and museums can reopen from July 15, along with indoor areas at pubs and restaurants. Nicola Sturgeon said it was ‘a time for cautious hope and optimism’ — despite there still being ‘real danger’ — as she moved to stage three of a four-stage plan to ease the lockdown. It comes after Scotland saw no new coronavirus deaths for 24 hours.