Gym bosses: Government opening pubs first for 'favourable publicity' rather than nation's health

Gym owners have written to the prime minister calling for a date to be fixed on when they can reopen. (Getty)

The owners of more than 100 gyms across the country have called on the government to allow them to reopen, saying the decision to prioritise pubs, restaurants and hotels was based on “favourable publicity” rather than “the health of the nation”.

In a letter published in The Times, the owners of 130 gyms said they were “dismayed” by Tuesday’s announcement from Boris Johnson, who allowed the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers from 4 July, but said indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail bars and beauty salons should remain closed.

The decision has sparked a backlash from some sectors, who have criticised the way lockdown is being eased.

In their letter in The Times, gym owners said: “It strikes us as a victory for vested interests, big donors and favourable publicity over common sense and the health of the nation. In this health crisis, physical and mental health should be at the fore.

“Where a gym can reopen safely — and many can do so far more easily than a hair salon, restaurant or pub — it must be allowed to do so.”

The owners argued that their sector would easily allow social distancing of two metres or more, and other measures could be taken including contact details for members, records of their attendance, controlled class sizes and timing that allow cleaning between sessions.

“The measures we can easily put in place make indoor gyms far safer than those premises that have been allowed to reopen,” the letter added.

“We urge the government to support a sector that does so much to prevent obesity, chronic illness and susceptibility to disease.”

They added that comments from business secretary Alok Sharma suggesting that it is an “aspiration” to allow gyms to reopen later next month was welcome but called for a “firm commitment” to that date.

The latter comes after Paralympian Baroness Grey-Thompson wrote to Boris Johnson urging him to personally intervene to get gyms and fitness centres open sooner.

Lady Grey-Thompson, who is chair of ukactive which represents gym and fitness chains, said the government should provide formal reasons for the sector not being included in the businesses that can reopen on 4 July and warned that 100,000 jobs could be lost in the sector.

She wrote: “As chair of ukactive, I’m writing to express my disappointment at the decision to delay the reopening of indoor facilities within the sport and physical activity sector, and to seek reassurances for a swift resolution.

“My disappointment and frustration is shared today by millions across the country who own, work at, and use these community assets.”

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