Sport, parks and leisure - COVID-19 exit strategy: ukactive questions government's 'lack of clarity' on fitness...
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12 May 2020

COVID-19 exit strategy: ukactive questions government's 'lack of clarity' on fitness
BY Tom Walker

The reopening of leisure, sport and physical activity facilities are included in Step 3

The reopening of leisure, sport and physical activity facilities are included in Step 3
photo: Shutterstock/Standret

ukactive has questioned the UK government's apparent decision to class gyms and leisure centres among a group of "higher risk" industry sectors, which means that there is no definite or potential date for the reopening of facilities – and could result in a delay in getting the sector back to business.

The government published a 50-page document on 11 May, called Our plan to rebuild: the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, in which it provides details on a three-step road map, which looks to gradually ease restrictions in England.

The reopening of leisure, sport and physical activity facilities are included in Step 3 – which will be taken no sooner than 4 July.

While gyms are not mentioned specifically in relation to the reopenings in Stage 3, however, the document states: "Some venues...where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point or may be able to open safely only in part.

"In order to facilitate the fastest possible re-opening of these types of higher-risk businesses and public places, the government will carefully phase and pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines."

In response to the document, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “The government's COVID-19 recovery strategy in its current form regrettably does not provide the clarity we are seeking – omitting both a clear window for reopening our facilities and the guarantee of continued financial support essential for the viability of the sector.

“We question, in good faith, the categorisation of our sector as higher risk in comparison to other sectors which are listed earlier for reopening.

“In order to secure both clarity and answers to the questions posed, we will scale up our constructive engagement with the Government and, over the coming days, discuss in detail the framework we have developed for the reopening of gyms, leisure centres and the wider fitness industry during social distancing.

“Our recommended framework for reopening provides a comprehensive picture of how our sector can reopen safely, setting out how social distancing would be observed in our gyms, studios, and leisure centres.

“We will provide the Government with complete transparency of our sector’s position and the measures we seek to adopt to ensure the safety of our customers and workforce.

“This will help to ensure clarity on any outstanding questions the Government has around the safe environment we can provide.

“We are reassured that the Government will look to learn from international markets, where we are already seeing the reopening of the sector over the next month, including in Switzerland, Italy and Australia.

“There is no doubt that this country needs our sector. The fight against, and recovery from, COVID-19 cannot be secured without the physical and mental benefits our sector provides, and our members have for many years driven physical activity levels across the UK.

“We will now look to work with the Government to not only address the questions they have, but also show that we are a solution to a number of significant challenges that COVID-19 has created.”



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