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ukactive: gyms and leisure centres must be allowed to operate in tier 4

By Tom Walker    21 Dec 2020
Gyms have been forced to close in the new Tier 4 areas in England / Shuttterstock.com/Kzenon

Forcing gyms, health clubs and leisure centres to stay shut in tier 4 areas is unthinkable, according to industry insiders – especially if the lifting of these measures will have to wait until people have been vaccinated.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has suggested that tough new restrictions in tier 4 areas – which include the closure of gyms and pools – could be kept in place until sufficient numbers of people have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Hancock didn't, however, offer any specifics on what "enough people" means.

Responding to Hancock's comment, ukactive CEO, Huw Edwards, said the physical activity industry was already working with the government on getting tier 4 restrictions lifted for the sector at the earliest opportunity.

This date is 30 December, after the new restrictions have been in force for 10 days and the government is legally obliged to review them.

"[The health secretary's] suggestion will cause great alarm across all business sectors, especially the physical activity sector," Edwards said.

“This is because the start of each year is a crucial period for gyms, pools, and leisure centres, where demand is at its highest as people look to improve their health and wellbeing.

"Failure to be open during this period, given the long periods of closure in 2020 and lack of bespoke sectoral support, would be devastating.

“We will work with the Government in the period up to Christmas and prior to the 30 December review date to ensure we are able to reopen from the start of the New Year.”

Gyms and leisure centres were not included in the baseline measures for tier 3 restrictions – which had been seen as a huge victory for the sector – and were allowed to open across all areas prior to the tier 4 announcement.

However, the introduction of tier 4 led to the immediate closure of thousands of facilities across London and the south-east of England.

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: "It's time for the government to keep focused on the preventative health agenda.

"Gyms have been proven to be safe and we know that exercise protects against COVID-19 in multiple ways, from the secretion of extracellular superoxide dismutase to the control of bodyfat.

"We also know how powerfully exercise supports mental health.

"Now, with the excesses of Christmas looming and with so many people committed to starting an exercise regime in January as part of their new year resolutions, is not the time for the government to pull back on supporting gym and leisure centre operators.

"We stand firmly behind ukactive and the sector in asking the government to hold its nerve and keep following the science, to enable us to support the people of this country through these challenging winter months.

"There is absolutely nothing to be gained by preventing people from exercising and so much to be lost."

Tier 4  ukactive  Huw Edwards  Matt Hancock 
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