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Dismay at delay

Pure Gym says FM gave little time to discuss reopening

Pure Gym

Pure Gym: First Minister has not prioritised talks

Britain’s biggest gym company has expressed dismay over the First Minister’s delay in reopening leisure centres and accused her of shunning the industry’s attempts to work with her on how it can operate safely.

Pure Gym, which has 120,000 members in 24 facilities in Scotland, said it was “extremely disappointed” that the opening of gyms in Scotland has been delayed until at least 14 September.

In a statement issued after today’s update on the next stage of easing lockdown measures, Pure Gym said: “The whole gym and fitness centre industry in Scotland, will be as disappointed as we are”.

Its comments follow Dragons’ Den tycoon Duncan Bannatyne’s warning of widespread job losses unless his gyms are allowed to open before the end of next month.

Other business leaders criticised the new timetable which will see most offices stay shut until 11 September. Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director, said this “creates confusion for many businesses”.

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On gyms remaining closed, Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “We appreciate and understand  the cautious approach the Scottish Government has adopted but we urge the Government to bring this date forward should the spread of the virus continue to remain at acceptable low levels.”

Pure Gym said: “It strikes us as truly extraordinary that, in the middle of a health crisis, the First Minister and her team have not ascribed any real priority to working with us and our sector to understand our capacity to help provide for the better health and well-being of the Scottish people at this time.”

The company said the First Minister’s policy was “in direct contrast to other countries”. Its gyms in Switzerland are in their 12th week of opening and in Denmark it is in its 7th week after opening”.

As far as we know, there have been no incidents of transmission or infection in our facilities

– Pure Gym

“Across those countries, we have welcomed over three million visitors since reopening. We have been audited and visited by police and authorities in those countries on dozens of occasions and passed every test.

“As far as we know, there have been no incidents of transmission or infection in our facilities – and both Denmark and Switzerland have good “track and trace” systems and tracing Apps operating.

“Furthermore, we reopened gyms in Northern Ireland three weeks ago and in England this week and these re-openings have met with strong local support for the access to exercise and much consumer praise for the protocols, standards and safety processes that have been implemented.”

The statement adds: “In prior speeches the First Minister has alluded to “evidence” that gyms are a problem and in her speech today she referenced “clinical advice” that gyms pose a “particular risk”.

“We acknowledge that there are problems, challenges and risks in all areas of society at the moment – and gyms have their own specific risks of course. That is precisely why we and the entire gym and fitness industry have invested huge effort and rigour in devising safety protocols and procedures that materially reduce the risk of viral transmission.

“These protocols are now allowing hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and across Europe to reap the mental and physical benefits of exercise without exposing themselves to undue risk.

Duncan Bannatyne

Duncan Bannatyne also issued a warning

“We urge the Scottish authorities to share openly relevant evidence and the cited clinical advice but above all to work with our sector to understand the approaches to risk mitigation which we have successfully implemented in other countries and which stand ready to benefit the people of Scotland.”

PureGym said its gyms are, on average, the size of five or six doubles tennis courts and are “exceptionally well ventilated”, enabling people to work and exercise safely and securely.

“Through our existing electronic entry system, we know the names and details of every single member in our facilities at any moment so can exercise tight control over attendance. As well as being staffed at all opening times we also monitor behaviour inside the gyms on CCTV so we are well prepared to oversee and enforce social distancing.

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“We have developed detailed, industry-agreed guidance and are confident gyms are safe places to work and safe places to workout. The protocols which have been developed with the input of recognised medical experts – cover all aspects of hygiene, disinfection, access control, physical separation, number limitations per venue, monitoring and oversight, education and training.

We urgently call on the First Minister to re-examine the current, factual evidence, engage with us and our industry bodies, and allow the Scottish people back into gyms as soon as possible so that we can support them in living happier and healthier lives.”

Indicative reopening dates include:

Reopening of indoor gyms, swimming pools and live events, including limited gatherings in stadia, from 14 September.

Non-essential offices and call centres to remain closed until at least 11 September.

Live outdoor events and some indoor facilities such as bingo halls can open from 24 August.

Schools to return from 11 August will all children back in class by 18 August.

Routine eyecare can resume on Monday 3 August and wider dental care from 17 August.

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