Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the single biggest lifting of lockdown restrictions on June 23, revealing that pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdresser can reopen from July 4. But there was one glaring omission from the latest lifting of the rules, leaving sporting bodies “devastated” as they struggle to stay afloat.
The latest lockdown update saw the Prime Minister announced a raft of businesses will be able to open from July 4 in the biggest step towards normality since the lockdown began at the end of March.
Pubs, restaurants and bars will all be able to open their doors again, along with hotels, campsites and holiday parks.
People will be allowed to stay overnight under the new restrictions, and the 2-metre social distancing rule has been quashed to what is being known as “1-metre plus”.
Even hairdressers can reopen under the new rules, provide salons are ‘covid-secure.’
But the Government failed to include indoor activities in the latest relaxation of restrictions, which badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy called “a kick in the teeth”.
While outdoor gyms will reopen and personal trainers can go back to their clients, a raft of sporting businesses are still on tenterhooks waiting for their time to open their doors once again.
Swimming pools, gyms and training centres have been closed since the lockdown started on March 23.
But while some elite athletes have gone back to training, amid the return of live football amongst other sports, all indoor sporting centres must still remain closed.
In an open letter, Mr Christy accused the Government of going back on their word after his organisation worked with officials to help prepare for the reopening of indoor sports facilities.
He wrote: “The reopening of indoor sports facilities from July 4 has been on the government’s roadmap for several weeks now.
“Yet the government has seemingly caved in to pressure to allow pubs and restaurants to open while keeping the doors locked on the millions of people who want to play indoor sport, use a gym or a pool.
“Throughout the period of drafting the return to play guidance with government there has been no hint whatsoever that this announcement was even a possibility.
“The decision is not just a sport matter but risks the nation lurching from one health crisis to another.”
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When will indoor sports reopen?
Dozens of other countries have already reopened gyms and indoor sports centres.
In Hong Kong, perspex screens have been installed between treadmills, and in Switzerland many gyms have adapted facilities and limited numbers of people in the buildings at one time.
In the UK, they remain closed for now – but there is a glimmer of hope for those hoping to go back to their favourite work out spaces.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said on Twitter the Government hoped to “reopen gyms & leisure facilities in mid-July”.
Huw Edwards, the chief executive of not-for-profit association ukactive, says gyms and sports facilities should play a key role in Britain’s long-term post-civid health strategy.
He warned up to 2,800 centres and 100,000 jobs could be lost if a date for reopening is not given soon.
The sports boss said: “Crucially, these are facilities that communities the length of the country depend upon, from the youngest to the oldest.
“Their potential loss could be catastrophic for local communities and catastrophic in the fight against Covid-19.”
His plan for gyms and leisure centres outlines strict rules for sport centres to abide by should they be able to reopen, including:
- No towels to be brought on to the gym floor
- At least two metres between all available gym equipment and studio space
- Only one parent per child in a swimming pool
- Social distancing throughout, including in changing rooms
- All touch points, such as weights or other equipment, to be cleaned down after use
- No more than one gym user or swimmer for every three square metres of space
Sport England chair Nick Bitel says the body is working closely with the government and sporting bodies to try to open up indoor sports as soon as possible.
“The sport and physical activity sector has been working incredibly hard preparing to reopen leisure, fitness and sports centres, with painstaking measures in place to ensure venues meet public health guidelines,” he said.
“We understand that difficult choices need to be made as the country exits lockdown.
“While it is disappointing for the sector that no specific date has been given for the reopening of facilities today, we will continue to work closely with government to ensure this happens as soon as possible, ideally within the coming weeks, an ambition we know is shared by government.”