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Gyms given green light to reopen and outdoor performances to return this weekend

PUBLISHED: 17:20 09 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:17 10 July 2020

Gyms closed since March are set to be allowed to reopen by mid-July. Picture: PA Images

Gyms closed since March are set to be allowed to reopen by mid-July. Picture: PA Images

DPA/PA Images

Fitness clubs, gyms and indoor pools will be allowed to reopen at the end of the month, with outdoor arts performances set to resume from the weekend, the government has announced.

Jason Elves, general manager, PureGym and Matt Culliton. Picture: ArchantJason Elves, general manager, PureGym and Matt Culliton. Picture: Archant

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced on Thursday night that indoor pools, gyms and other sports facilities will be able to open on July 25 in the latest easing of lockdown restrictions.

Outdoor swimming pools in England and cricket can also return this weekend.

Outdoor arts performances - including theatres, opera, dance and music - will also be able to resume from July 11, although audience numbers will be restricted and will be subject to social distancing rules.

Phoenix Gym at St Mary's Works in Norwich. Reopening fitness centres will have to adhere to strict safety measures. Picture: Phoenix GymPhoenix Gym at St Mary's Works in Norwich. Reopening fitness centres will have to adhere to strict safety measures. Picture: Phoenix Gym

Mr Dowden said a change in planning rules will also mean theatres, concert halls and live music venues will be protected from demolition or change of use by developers, stopping those that have been made temporarily vacant during lockdown disappearing altogether.

Beauticians, tattooists and tanning salons can also reopen from Monday.

Sarah Winter, who runs home-based salon Beauty and the Best in Caister, said: “Right now I am just feeling relief and happiness for the whole industry, and excitement at seeing all my lovely ladies again.

Brad Williams, a personal trainer who runs Gym 121 in Norwich. Picture: SubmittedBrad Williams, a personal trainer who runs Gym 121 in Norwich. Picture: Submitted

“Though I do still feel for many people in the industry who won’t be able to go back to work - like lash technicians.”

Mr Dowden told the Downing Street press conference: “Having allowed hairdressers to reopen, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close contact services can now do the same, I’m pleased to say, from Monday.

“Of course that will be subject to some restrictions on particularly high-risk services.”

Pure Gym on Riverside, one of three in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyPure Gym on Riverside, one of three in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The news will come as a relief to gym members, trainers and owners of fitness clubs, who expressed bitter disappointment at being left out of the previous easing of restrictions that allowed pubs and food outlets to open.

MORE: Tattoo parlours anger at being ‘overlooked’ and told to stay closed

Brad Williams, a personal trainer who runs Gym 121 at the Royal Norwich golf course as well as Club 100 health clubs in Norwich and London, said: “This has been a long time coming and I’m very much looking forward to finally [restarting].

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA WireDigital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

“I have been in touch with UK Active and they have said there are certain regulations we are going to have to stick to but it’s not impossible to do. I don’t think it is going to affect how people train too much.”

Members of the government’s SAGE Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport visited gyms, including PureGym and David Lloyd Leisure, last week to see how a reopening could be handled.

Humphrey Cobbold, chief executive of the PureGym chain, which has three fitness centres in Norwich and one in Wisbech, said: “We are absolutely ready to go and have been ready for quite a while. We have got the protocols in place, we just want to get started.”

Jason Elves, in charge of the company’s regional hub of gyms, said almost half of the cardio equipment, such as treadmills, were being removed to allow social distancing and new ‘train safe’ areas created for people to work out away from others.

Opening hours will be reduced initially with members recommended to use the Pure Gym app to visit at quiet times and avoid queuing.

MORE: Government to pick up half the bill for meals eaten out in August

Mr Williams said his clients were raring to get back. “There are a lot of people who have gained weight and got into bad habits during lockdown,” he said.

“I have had clients saying as soon as you restart we’ll be back. I’ve not had anyone be hesitant about coming back at all.

“I have done some online training and one client has said he’d like to stay doing it online but only because it is convenient for him.”

But it wasn’t good news for everyone.

Reacting to the news that indoor performances are still not allowed, Beccles-based singer Fiona Harber said: “I understand why they have to hold off allowing us to perform indoors - after all venues have a duty of care and they need to protect customers.

“From a perhaps selfish point of view, though, it’s frustrating. It’s been a real struggle financially for me and for artists everywhere and it’s quite hard to stay positive when it keeps going on.

“Being able to put on shows outside is a boost but it’s dependent on the weather. Obviously the weather hasn’t been great lately and we’ve already missed quite a lot of the summer so it could be difficult.

“It’s an anxious time - the music industry will change and it may not be the same again.”

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich’s Theatre Royal, said he was pleased to see pilots for indoor performances were now beginning.

“I am delighted that a date for stage three of the government’s road map to restarting the performing arts has been confirmed and in particular that the pilots for performances indoors now begin,” he said.

“This is an encouraging first step and I look forward to the dates for the subsequent stages being published.”


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