Dear Penny Mordaunt,
I am writing on behalf of independent gym owners across Portsmouth.
As a representative of an industry that will be hit hard as a result of the recent decisions around gym closures under the new Tier system, I feel compelled to share our position; and to seek clarification for the thinking behind these decisions.
There seem to be some significant inconsistencies in the rationale behind the decision to place gyms in the category of businesses that are forced to close in the case of a Tier Three alert.
Where the fitness and leisure sector reports a Covid rate of 0.34 per 100,000 visits since reopening in England, recent data shows that pubs and restaurants could be linked to more than 30% of Covid infections amongst under-30s. This shows that gyms are one of the safest places to be – and that despite this, settings with far higher risks of transmission are remaining open.
On top of this, local, independently-run gyms are a fundamental part of the local community. In attending the gym, members are tackling some of the biggest problems facing our society today: obesity, poor mental health, isolation, and supporting immune function through exercise.
We are independent gyms that know many of our members on a first name basis with a booking-only system. This gives us precise control over how many people are in our premises at one time. Through careful collaboration and sharing of best practices, we have implemented the highest standards of ventilation, social distancing, track and trace tracking, and sanitisation. Our customers and staff are incredibly diligent about ensuring that the gym remains a safe space – evidenced by the figures quoted above.
With schools and in-home contact immune from further restrictions, we understand that our country’s leaders are looking for sectors that CAN be shut down. We also appreciate that restaurants, pubs, shops and the like play a large part in the economic health of the nation. But this doesn’t have to be a health versus economy decision.
Small businesses like ours are at the heart of the economic health of the areas in which they sit: AND they are combatting the biggest mental and physical threats to their communities.
Why, therefore, will gyms be forced to close their doors if risk is moved to a Tier Three alert?
The recent closure of gyms in the Liverpool area is a case in point, highlighting the government’s inconsistency and lack of transparency. In the documentation released after the announcement of the new system, it was stated that any changes to gyms’ opening would happen after consultation. However, it has become clear that Joe Anderson and other relevant leaders, trade associations and UK Active were NOT consulted, and that the process of lockdown was in fact a dictat.
We call for this process of closure to be paused until proper consultation has taken place; we request that the process is undertaken with credibility, with transparency, with local involvement, and with the right data steering the way forward.
We call for proper explanation of the recent decisions in light of the evidence that gyms are a massive force for good for people’s wellbeing; and in light of the fact that the risk of Covid transmission while attending the gym is statistically insignificant.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience on these matters that are both fundamental to our business’ values and success; and vital to the wellbeing of our nation.
Thank you in anticipation of your help.
Mr Sean Cole
SC Vital Fitness