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Leisure lockdown lifted

Gyms up and running but eat out scheme ends

Duncan Bannatyne

Duncan Bannatyne: had warned of closures

Gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts have reopen in Scotland today after 24 weeks in coronavirus lockdown.

Venues are able to welcome members back after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon brought the planned date for some indoor sports forward by two weeks. Gyms in England reopened on 25 July.

The reopening of indoor sports halls follows weeks of pressure from the fitness industry, sports governing bodies and a number of business lobby groups.

Former Dragons’ Den panelist Duncan Bannatyne had warned that continued closure threatened the future of his 71 UK health clubs.

Pure Gym, Britain’s biggest gym company, had 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 gyms could operate safely. The company operates 24 gyms in Scotland. The company said that it operated gyms around Europe and cases of coronavirus had been rare.

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In a statement today, a spokesman said: “All gyms have sanitisation stations, contact-free entry and rigorous overnight deep cleaning and we’ve received highly positive feedback on cleanliness from our members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have already returned for millions of gyms visits without incident.”

Although the reopening of gyms was brought forward from its planned date of 14 September, the announcement came too late for DW which closed its centres after its parent company went into administration.

Some gyms are expected to face a long haul back to pre-Covid levels with a survey showing only 30.98% of members have returned [5,055 Member Survey].

The UK had the highest rate of gym membership cancellations of any country (21.76%), making it likely the fitness industry has already lost and will continue to lose billions if the situation does not improve. A further 38.55% are currently considering cancelling their memberships. 

Where clubs are reopening employers or operators of sports facilities have a legal duty to protect staff and users from risks to their health and safety. They are required to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment of the facility itself, as well as the activities taking place.

Visitors should expect to book before attending and will find contact minimised through visual aids to guide them around the facility and equipment spaced out. Class sizes will be smaller and, where possible, activities outside will be encouraged. There may be no access to lockers or showers.

More restrictions on leisure facilities will be lifted on 14 September.

Sports stadiums, theatres and live music venues will be able to reopen with social distancing, limits on capacity and enhanced hygiene.

Indoor contact sports for people aged 12 and over could also return.

And limits on numbers at weddings and funerals could be relaxed – though they would still be subject to some restrictions.

Eat Out to Help Out ends

The UK government’s Eat Out to Help Out discount ends today after being credited with saving thousands of jobs and restaurants.

Businesses say the scheme – which gives diners 50% off, up to £10 – has successfully tempted more people to eat out again after lockdown was eased.

The scheme applied to sit-in meals and soft drinks, Monday to Wednesday throughout the month, with no limit to the number of times it could be used.


Rishi Sunak promoting the scheme in Scotland

Some 84,000 outlets signed up, with claims made for more than 64 million meals.

Research by food and drink consultancy CGA suggested that across the whole of the scheme’s third week, food sales were 15% higher than in the equivalent period in 2019.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the scheme had helped to protect 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector.

The month-long project is expected to have cost taxpayers £500 million pounds. The government has also cut VAT on hospitality, accommodation and attractions to 5% from 20% until mid-January, costing the Treasury a further £2.5 billion.

Some restaurants have decided to operate their own versions of the scheme by offering discounts for a limited time, although some have admitted that the impact on margins would be so severe that it would not be viable.

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