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Gyms in Liverpool win fight to reopen after tense standoff

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Gyms in Liverpool,UK, have been given the go-ahead to reopen, following a dramatic week of negotiations.

The city had originally been excluded from the UK government's new 'tier 3' parameters – published last Friday – which allowed gyms everywhere else in the country continue trading, but leaving Liverpool the only place where gyms were not permitted to open.

Gym operators in Liverpool challenged the decision to establish why the city had been singled out for these special additional measures.

Operators considered legal action to break the deadlock, but with the council and government arguing about who was driving the decision – and neither owning up it – it was unclear who to sue.

The consent to reopen will come as a vindication and relief for the many gym operators in the city who defined the lockdown and stayed open, most notably, Body Tech Fitness, whose owner, Nick Whitcombe, set up a gofundme page to help pay any fines and legal costs. The page is currently showing a £53,000 fighting fund for Liverpool gyms.

At the hight of the standoff, Body Tech Fitness was visited by eight police officers, who imposed an on-the-spot £1,000 fine.

Whitcombe said: "'They gave us our warning. Then came back with orders from their top boss to issue a fine. They've told us 'close immediately' or I'll take a £1,000 fine.

"We still had quite a lot of members training and I said to the officers, 'I'm not asking anyone to leave. I'm going to let them finish their sessions first', so they issued the fine.

"First one's £1,000. They can come back in three hours and issue a £2,000 fine. Three hours after that £4,000.

"It's disappointing. They sent out seven or eight officers, what a waste of resources."

A statement on Body Tech Fitness' Gofundme page says: "The UK Government took it upon themselves to close gyms in the North West, despite the overwhelming evidence that gyms are not major spreaders of COVID-19.

"We are remaining open. Despite the threat of fines and closure, we are going to fight this.

"We respected the last lockdown, although we financially suffered and only survived because of our amazing members.

"We are not staying open now for financial gain, but more for our members' mental and physical wellbeing.

"Gym’s should be supported in fighting COVID-19, obesity, mental health issues and many other conditions and diseases."

Huw Edwards, CEO of industry body, ukactive, has issued the following statement in response to the news about Liverpool:

“We are delighted the Government has agreed to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in the Liverpool region, following the incredible support our sector has received from both the public and local leaders in the area.

“We thank the Mayors, Steve Rotheram and Joe Anderson, and other local leadership for their tireless pursuit of answers, as well as the gym owners of Liverpool for their constructive support during this stressful time, and the public’s show of support – demonstrated in the growing petition to keep gyms open.

“Our sector stands united in its call to reclassify gyms and leisure facilities as essential services, vital to the physical and mental health and resilience of our communities during this health crisis.

“As more regions enter tier 3 restrictions, we call for all decisions to be made in consultation and based on the latest operational evidence, which we will continue to provide to local and central government.

“The data we have collected from more than 1,800 facilities shows our sector is undertaking the highest levels of reporting and controlling cases of COVID-19 among customers, which have been limited thanks to strict adherence to government guidelines.

“This shows that the proactive protocols put in place by gyms and leisure facilities to prevent people with the virus from visiting them are working, alongside the highest standards of cleanliness, social distancing and safety, to reduce the risk of transmission.

“Our sector must be allowed to play its full role in supporting the nation’s physical and mental resilience to COVID-19 at this time.”

HCM will update this story as more news breaks.

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Gyms in Liverpool have been given the go-ahead to reopen, following a dramatic week of negotiations.
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