Confusion as gyms asked to close for one month in England. Family workouts, personal training and dual-use may still be allowed
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Confusion as gyms asked to close for one month in England. Family workouts, personal training and dual-use may still be allowed

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The UK government will ask gyms and leisure centres in England to close between 5 November and 2 December as part of an emergency lockdown, leaving the industry five days to prepare.

MPs are expected to vote on these new measures on Wednesday 4th.

After 5 November, people will be allowed to exercise for unlimited periods of time outside, either with people from their own household or on a one to one basis with one person from another household.

At this point, there are no official government guidelines available to clarify details of the announcement – perhaps due to the hasty nature of today's press conference, which was rushed forward following an alleged 'leak' to journalists on Friday night.

However, this appears to mean that personal training can continue and that operators could still offer outdoor family workouts, for example.

With educational establishments staying open, dual-use facilities may find they are also permitted to operate.

Amateur sport has been suspended.

HCM has made a request for clarity on these points and will report back with answers.

The move is a complete u-turn, as operators were being told gyms could stay open even at the highest COVID-19 alert levels, as little as 48 hours previously.

it's also a blow for the industry, which has been lobbying to be classed as an essential service so it's allowed to remain open in the event of a lockdown.

Leading operators have told HCM that the UK government's parallel announcement that furlough will be extended to support businesses could be extremely positive for the sector, depending on the terms of the new scheme.

The fact the lockdown is limited to a month also offers some reassurance.

After this one month period of tougher measures, different parts of the country will be released back into the existing three-tier system, depending on regional transmission rates.

It's not yet clear whether all operators will adhere to the new ruling, or whether some will attempt workarounds or covert openings or simply refuse to comply.

Faced with a similar request to close in Germany last week, operators there signalled their intention to collectively take legal action against the government.

HCM editor, Liz Terry said: "This is a bad decision. The gym industry is part of the solution to COVID-19, not part of the problem. Gyms are COVID-safe spaces that help people stay healthy and minimise their COVID-19 risk profile.

"The right to exercise is a basic human right and we must not rest until this is recognised by governments.

"For the vast majority of people, this means having access to the specialist facilities and expertise needed to do so safely and our gyms and leisure centres provide this valuable service.

"In closing gyms, this government is undermining the health of hundreds of thousands of people and making it more likely they will be hospitalised with COVID-19.

"This defies logic and we ask that this decision is urgently revisited and reviewed."

Terry had earlier called on the government to recognise the vital role played by gyms and leisure centres and to allow gyms to remain open.

HCM will update this story as more is known about the terms of the lockdown.

Elsewhere in the UK, gyms in Wales are closed until 9 November, while Scotland is following a five-tier COVID-19 lockdown strategy which sees gyms open, but only for individual exercise, with all group activities banned.

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The UK government has asked gyms and leisure centres to close between 5 November and 2 December as part of an emergency lockdown, leaving the industry five days to prepare.

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