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Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres will reopen on July 25 as the government announced further coronavirus lockdown restrictions would be lifted.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, culture secretary Oliver Dowden called on the public to “work out to help out”, but he warned fitness businesses that strict social distancing measures must be put in place to protect people from infection.
Dowden said face coverings would not need to be worn as a “whole series of mitigating measures” would be put in place.
Exercise machines should be spaced apart and one-way systems introduced at venues, while at swimming pools, there should be 3sqm per bather.
Saunas and steam rooms “should stay out of use for the time being”, the guidance adds.
Dowden said there must be regular deep cleaning at facilities and that new guidance will also soon be published to enable competitive grassroots team sports to resume, beginning with cricket this weekend.
The minister told the Downing Street press conference: “Our fight began with a collective effort and I really hope it will end with one. At the beginning we all stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives, now the British public has a new part to play. It’s time to eat out to help out, to enjoy the arts to help out and to work out to help out.
“It’s over to all of you to help the country recover safely.”
The news will be warmly welcomed by fitness chains, who have complained prime minister Boris Johnson’s “war on obesity” would be impossible if pubs and restaurants could reopen but gyms could not.
Retail and hospitality venues were able to open their doors to customers on Saturday, after the PM switched the two-metre social distancing rule to “one-metre plus”.
It meant that people could get up to a metre away from one another, provided a mitigation, such as a face covering, was in place.
Government figures have been worried, however, that gyms presented a higher risk and will press operators to strictly follow gym-specific guidelines.
Dowden also revealed that beauticians, tattooists and tanning salons can reopen from Monday in the latest easing of the lockdown.
He said: “Having allowed hairdressers to reopen, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close contact services can now do the same, I’m pleased to say, from Monday.
“Of course that will be subject to some restrictions on particularly high-risk services.”
Outdoor arts performances – including theatres, opera, dance and music – will also be able to resume from the weekend although audience numbers will be restricted and will be subject to social distancing rules.
A change in planning rules will also mean theatres, concert halls and live music venues will be protected from demolition or change of use by developers, stopping those that have been made temporarily vacant during lockdown disappearing altogether.
Dowden said: “Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times.
“We are also giving further clarity on restart dates in our roadmap back to performance. From July 11 we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots.”