Gyms close in south-east England for an initial ten days as new 'tier 4' is created
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Gyms close in south-east England for an initial ten days as new 'tier 4' is created

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Gyms and leisure facilities in south-east England are to close from midnight tonight as part of new restrictions announced during an emergency press this evening by prime minister, Boris Johnson.

The restrictions – similar in scope to the full national lockdown imposed in November – are reportedly due to the spread of a variant of COVID-19 which is "potentially up to '70 per cent more infectious than the original strain".

In spite of these restrictions, facilities in large parts of the UK remain open, with gyms and leisure centres in tiers 1, 2 and 3 still permitted to trade.

Under the tier 4 rules, indoor gyms and leisure facilities, as well as spas and hairdressers, must close.

The initial restrictions will be in place for ten days, with a review of the tier 4 rules in these areas taking place on December 30, said Johnson.

Industry insiders say they hope restrictions on gym openings will be lifted on 30 December in time for the new year rush, to enable the industry to support people in staying healthy and fighting COVID-19.

The news comes as a blow to the sector, which had previously won a significant concession in being allowed to stay open in tier 3 and comes at the end of a week when new data from ukactive and EuropeActive reconfirmed that gyms are safe and have not been associated with the spread of COVID-19.

A sample of 55m visits to gyms in England has not found any evidence of transmission.

Gyms in tier 3 areas are currently prevented from running group exercise classes, with the sector lobbying the government to reverse what has been described as a 'baffling and discriminatory' policy.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, announced measures similar to tier 4, saying Scotland will take 'preventative' measure to avoid the spread which has been seen in London and the south-east in the last two weeks. First Minister Mark Drakeford has placed the whole of Wales into full lockdown from midnight tonight, with plans cancelled for all but Christmas Day.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “This is a desperately tough announcement by the Prime Minister on the challenges we face combatting COVID-19, impacting millions of people as we approach Christmas.

“The creation of a new Tier 4 in England will also impact thousands of gyms, pools and leisure centres that have now been asked to close their facilities over the next few hours in London and the South East of England, sparking further uncertainty for their future and the people they employ.

“We acknowledge the 30 December review date for these restrictions and it is essential they are lifted for our sector at that point.

“Gyms, pools, and leisure facilities have consistently proven the extremely low prevalence of COVID-19 among people who have visited these facilities, meeting the challenge of some of the highest standards of any sector.

“Furthermore, 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.”

Here are the key lists for the new tier restrictions in England:

Areas that will move from Tier 3 to Tier 4 from the beginning of Sunday 20 December.


All 32 London boroughs plus City of London

South East

Kent and MedwayBuckinghamshire

Berkshire (Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, Wokingham, Windsor and Maidenhead and West Berkshire)Surrey (excluding Waverley)

Hastings and RotherHavant, Gosport and Portsmouth

East of England


Essex (excluding Tendring, Uttlesford and Colchester)Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton



Tier 1: Medium alert

South East

Isle of WightSouth West

CornwallIsles of Scilly

West Midlands


Tier 2: High alert

East of England


Some local authorities in Essex (Colchester, Tendring and Uttlesford)Norfolk


East Midlands


North West


Liverpool City RegionWarrington and Cheshire

South East

West Sussex, East Sussex (except Hastings and Rother) and Brighton and Hove


Southampton and Hampshire (all local authorities except Gosport, Havant and Portsmouth)

South West

BristolNorth Somerset

Somerset (South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor), Bath and North East SomersetDorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

Devon, including Plymouth and TorbayGloucestershire (Cheltenham, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Stroud and Tewkesbury)

Wiltshire and Swindon

West Midlands

Shropshire, and Telford and WrekinWorcestershire


City of York and North Yorkshire

Tier 3: Very High alert

East Midlands

Derby and Derbyshire

Leicester CityLeicestershire

LincolnshireNottingham and Nottinghamshire

North East

North East Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of County Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland)

North of Tyne Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland)Tees Valley Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees)

North West

Greater Manchester

Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen, and Blackpool

South West

South GloucestershireWest Midlands

Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and WolverhamptonStaffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent



Yorkshire and The Humber

The Humber: East Riding of YorkshireKingston upon Hull/Hull

North East LincolnshireNorth Lincolnshire

South Yorkshire (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotheram, Sheffield)West Yorkshire (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield)

Published 26 November 2020

Last updated 19 December 2020

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Gyms and leisure facilities in south-east England are to close from midnight tonight under a variety of new restrictions announced during an emergency press briefing this evening by prime minister, Boris Johnson.

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