Gyms and Leisure Centres Could Reopen in July Which Seems Optimistic Bordering on Delusional

By Shabana Arif on at

It seems that everyone with a business that was forced to shut down during the pandemic is hedging their bets by telling everyone that they're reopening on July 4.

Legoland Windsor has already pencilled that date in, and I've been getting emails from the salons I frequent telling me the same thing – it's business as usual at the start of July. Picking the day we cut ourselves free from the chaff that is now America is nice and all, but let's be real for a minute; the virus hasn't dissipated into the ether, and the risk is just as high now as it was a couple of weeks ago. But companies are eager to open their doors again, and gyms and leisure centres are lining up to join them.

Government officials are in talks to discuss the feasibility of reopening gyms, as well as looking at how to facilitate the return of team sports. Contact sports may be off the table until September/October, while football clubs could be allowed to train in groups of five in July - if the number of COVID-19 cases decreases. This is a big turnaround from flinging open gym doors in October as originally anticipated, and apparently representatives from the 7,000 gyms across the country are working “really hard to bring sensible solutions” to the conversation. Huw Edwards, the chief executive of UK Active, said:

"We want to open in a way which is safe for staff and customers, allows people to come back and train, and then gets businesses up and running again.

"The government has said to us nothing before the fourth of July. Our plan is to take government and Public Health England officials out to sites to reassure them that gyms can safely implement social distancing. We are going to be a completely open book."

Social distancing measures include spacing out gym equipment and setting a cap on the number of people that can be in a gym at any one time. Edwards added:

"The guidance goes through everything: from deep-cleaning equipment and reworking gym floors and studios to maintain social distancing rules and the need to have signs to direct people so the flow feels more when you enter a supermarket."

It's understandable that businesses want to reopen given the economic fallout that staying locked down has caused, and it seems the government has given up on fining or even monitoring people in public places to ensure social distancing guidelines are being followed. The exit strategy has to trust that people won't behave like a bunch of clowns so that the phased reopening of businesses  can go ahead while the five key factors are met. Just to refresh your memory, those five factors are:

  • Protecting the NHS and its ability to cope under the strain of the pandemic
  • A sustained fall in deaths
  • Decrease in infection rate
  • Testing and PPE operational and logistical challenges must overcome
  • The measures that are rolled out can't risk a second spike for fear of overwhelming the NHS

The government has modified the rules on social distancing - not that anyone was listening anyway - and yes, they do seem somewhat arbitrary but are clearly in place as the virus is still present and it's a balance of slowly introducing free movement, and making socialising between families and households possible. So obviously, what the government really means is that we should all go and do this:

If you want shit to start returning to normal, abide by the restrictions - which are pretty lax compared to other countries - wear a mask, and stop picking holes in the rules as a justification for doing what you like and disregarding them completely. Scenes like the above would be unthinkable a week ago, and guess what - it still is. At this rate, we'll get a second wave and you'll have to go without a haircut, gym membership, and a trip to Legoland Windsor until October. [The Guardian]

Feature image credit: Unsplash