Gyms and swimming pools to reopen within days as date officially confirmed

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Outdoor swimming pools will be allowed to re-open from Saturday in England, with gyms and indoor leisure centres to follow on July 25, the government has announced.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden outlined a string of new measures to allow sports facilities to open safely, with social distancing rules in place.

He also announced the return of the performing arts, with concerts, plays and operas resuming in outdoor settings from this weekend.

Mr Dowden said: “Normal life is slowly returning. This is an important milestone to our performing artists, who have been waiting in the wings for months.”

He urged people to buy tickets for outdoor events to help the creative industries recover from  the extended closure.

And beauticians, nail bars, tanning shops, spas and tattooists will be allowed to open their doors again from Monday July 13.

But facial treatments, including eyelashes, will not be allowed for the moment.

The number of people allowed to use sports facilities at once will be limited – with new guidance recommending a timed booking system.

Class sizes should be reduced, and equipment should be spaced out to allow for proper social distancing.

And customers will be urged to shower and change at home wherever possible – although changing rooms will be available.

But face coverings won’t be mandatory.

Revealing the plans at a press conference, Mr Dowden said: “The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool.”

He added: “Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff.

“Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the guidance had been compiled with input from the trade body ukactive, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England and other sports bodies, and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.

The UK’s death toll hit 44,602 today – up 85 on the previous day.

There was a fresh jobs blow as Boots announced 4,000 cuts and John Lewis warned 1,300 staff were at risk.

Ministers hope the latest easing will help prevent an even bigger unemployment crisis.

Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said: “Beauticians, nail salons, gyms and the wider fitness sector have faced months without customers, and they’ll be pleased to see that they can finally get back to business.

“What’s crucial now is that the Government supports those smallest businesses as they prepare to reopen in a safe and compliant way to protect and safeguard the health of both staff and customers alike. “

Alice Bellamy, 67, from Calne, Wilts, who has been a beauty therapist for 27 years was delighted she could reopen her salon.

She said: “I’m very pleased and actually ecstatic – my phone is buzzing with messages from clients already – but shocked that we only have three days notice, which, frankly, is typical of the whole handling of this crisis.”

Guidance published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, set out advice for managers of pools, gym and leisure centres on cleaning, social distancing and protecting staff.

Measures include limiting the number of people using facilities, cutting class sizes and allowing enough time between sessions to avoid groups waiting outside during changeover; and spacing out equipment or taking some machines off gym floors to maintain social distancing.

Hand sanitiser must be provided throughout venues, there must be “adequate ventilation” and customers and staff should shower and change at home wherever possible.

But fitness fanatics will not have to wear a face mask in gyms.

Mr Dowden said: “The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool.

“Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff.

“Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.”

Gerald Vernon Jackson, of the Local Government Association, said: “Being active is crucial to the fight against obesity, inactivity and poor mental health, and we know that the lockdown has increased physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits for some families.

“Many leisure providers are in serious financial jeopardy as a result of months of lockdown and the expensive cost of maintaining closed facilities, particularly those with swimming pools.

“Having had to furlough staff and faced with uncertainty about when they might be able to reopen, providers have been unable to prepare.

“This means it may take a bit of time to reopen some facilities in line with government guidance and to ensure the right measures in place to maintaining social distancing and safe use.”

British Chambers of Commerce executive director Hannah Essex said: “Businesses in the leisure and beauty industries and many in the arts sector will be relieved to finally have a timetable for reopening and can now plan for the future.

“Firms given the green light to reopen will be taking a safe, proportionate and risk-based approach to returning to work, in close consultation with their staff.

“For many this will be an entirely new way of operating as they apply guidance to the on the ground realities of their business.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson failed to meet his target of having all coronavirus tests completed within 24 hours by the end of June, newly-released data showed tonight.

There was only a small rise in the proportion of tests completed within the timeframe after the Prime Minister made his pledge, Department of Health statistics suggested .

In making the commitment to former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on June 3, Mr Johnson said 90% of tests were already turned around in 24 hours and he would increase that to all but those with “insuperable problems” by the end of the month.

It rose to 91% of in-person tests being completed within the timeframe at regional test sites between June 25 and July 1, according to official data.

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