OUR STATEMENT ON FORCED GYM CLOSURES IN THE LIVERPOOL CITY/METROPOLITAN AREA
13th October 2020
We are extremely disappointed to have to close our seven gyms in the Liverpool area. We urge the mayors and leaders of the Liverpool City Region to reconsider this retrograde step which has no scientific basis and we challenge the Government to present the data that supports this decision. The facts and data we have at a national and local level indicate clearly that gyms are safe with no evidence of Covid-19 transmission in gyms. Indeed, Environmental Health Office (EHO) inspectors have in general rated our gyms highly for the Covid-safe protocols that have been implemented. Our members and other gym goers in the area are bitterly disappointed to not be able to exercise, especially as the nights get longer and the temperatures colder. This decision will have a profound impact on some fitness facilities which are in a perilous state after the first lockdown and it will worsen the physical and mental health of the local population. We - as an industry leader - are committed to protecting all operators in the industry.
Since July 25th the gym and fitness sector in England has been carefully gathering information relating to the incidence of Covid-19 cases in gyms. These data clearly show a low incidence of confirmed Covid-19 cases notified to us (people who have visited facilities and informed us they tested positive shortly afterwards) at around one in 100,000. Up to 2nd October we have had 36.9 million visits to over 1,400 facilities in the sample (which is about 20% of all gyms in the UK) and we were notified of just 269 cases[i].
At a local Liverpool level, we at PureGym have seven facilities in the area and since reopening, there have been over 300,000 visits by around 31,000 members. During this time period we have been notified of only 11 members and staff who have tested positive for Covid-19. Crucially, we have seen no confirmed cases of transmission of the virus in our facilities in the Liverpool area – nor indeed across our estate of 276 gyms in the UK and 516 facilities (and over 15m visits) in total across Europe. Furthermore, across the whole of our estate there have been no reported cases of “super spreader events” in gyms.
We - along with all operators - were required by SAGE and PHE to put in place a broad range of protocols to make our gyms Covid-safe[ii]. These have cost millions of pounds and include 2m social distancing, reduced numbers of people in gyms, increased fresh airflow/ventilation per person, dramatically increased hygiene and sanitisation procedures, contactless entry and ample communication. More recently we have ensured that staff and members wear masks when in our facilities whilst not exercising. And unlike many sectors such as general retail we are actively enforcing adherence to all these restrictions and will not hesitate to ban members who refuse to stick to the rules. The facts, therefore, clearly and show that our protocols are working and that a gym is a safe place to work and a safe place to workout. This safety has been confirmed by the Council’s own EHO inspectors who have visited our gyms and have rated them “the best seen so far” in terms of Covid-safe protocols. This is reflective of and further supported by the Government’s own data that shows that gyms are responsible for a small (if any) proportion of transmissions of the Covid-19 virus across the UK[iii].
With this robust factual evidence – all of which has been made available to authorities in Liverpool and the UK National Government and the devolved authorities – the decision to close gyms is deeply disappointing and this disappointment will be most keenly felt by the approximately 250,000 people who are active gym members in the region. We know from recent research that gyms make a huge difference to the physical and mental well-being of people in Liverpool and the nation in general. This research reveals that 90% of members are satisfied with the measures and controls that have been put in place; for 80% the gym is their only or main form of activity/exercise; and over 85% believe both that gyms are important for their mental well-being and should remain open in the event of stricter lockdowns.
We fully recognise the extreme challenges confronting both national and local authorities. But in Scotland, faced by a similar upsurge of cases as has been seen in Liverpool, the First Minister considered the facts carefully and elected to keep gyms and fitness centres open because of the clear health benefits they provide to society and the very low risk they represent in terms of transmission of the virus. We believe this was the right course of action in balancing the all-round health of the population with continued protection against the virus. Why can’t Liverpool and Westminster by guided by the same facts as Scotland?
To conclude we urge the mayors and leaders of the Liverpool City Region and national Government to seriously reconsider their decision to close gyms in Liverpool. If they fail to do so they will have to face and live with the consequences of a less healthy population and associated poorer health outcomes including a weaker immune system. And they will be actively contributing to the wilful destruction of a sector that is an essential service (not just another “leisure opportunity”) where many operators – not least council owned leisure facilities – are already in financial distress. They should be aware that absent scientific evidence we as sector leaders will not stand by and watch this destruction happen. We will consider any and every course of action that can be taken to support our industry and members including recourse to legal processes if that is what it takes.
Humphrey Cobbold, Chief Executive Officer – PureGym
Our statement on the Scottish First Minister's decision to delay gyms reopening
30th July 2020
We are extremely disappointed that the possible opening of gyms in Scotland has been delayed until September 14th. We know that the majority of our Scottish members (over 120,000 of them across 24 gyms!) are desperate to get back to their gyms to improve their physical and mental wellbeing and them, and the whole gym and fitness centre industry in Scotland will be as disappointed as we are. We have a vital role to play in the fight against obesity which is a public health challenge in Scotland and right across the UK. More broadly, it strikes us as truly extraordinary that, in the middle of a health crisis, the First Minister and her team have not ascribed any real priority to working with us and our sector to understand our capacity to help provide for the better health and wellbeing of the Scottish people at this time.
Her approach seems to be in direct contrast to other countries. For example, our gyms in Switzerland are in their 12th week of opening and in Denmark we are in our 7th week after opening. Across those countries, we have welcomed over 3 million visitors since reopening. We have been audited and visited by police and authorities in those countries on dozens of occasions and passed every test. As far as we know, there have been no incidents of transmission of infection in our facilities – and both Denmark and Switzerland have good “track and trace” systems and tracing Apps operating. Furthermore, we reopened gyms in Northern Ireland three weeks ago and in England this week and these reopenings have met with strong local support for the access to exercise and much consumer praise for the protocols, standards and safety processes that have been implemented.
In prior speeches, the First Minister has alluded to “evidence” that gyms are a problem and in her speech today she referenced “clinical advice” that gyms pose a “particular risk”. We acknowledge that there are problems, challenges and risks in all areas of society at the moment – and gyms have their own specific risks of course. That is precisely why we and the entire gym and fitness industry have invested huge effort and rigour in devising safety protocols and procedures that materially reduce the risk of viral transmission. These protocols are now allowing hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and across Europe to reap the mental and physical benefits of exercise without exposing themselves to undue risk. We urge the Scottish authorities to share openly relevant evidence and the cited clinical advice but above all to work with our sector to understand the approaches to risk mitigation which we have successfully implemented in other countries and which stand ready to benefit the people of Scotland.
Our gyms at PureGym are, on average, the size of five or six doubles tennis courts and are exceptionally well ventilated, enabling people to work and exercise safely and securely. Through our existing electronic entry system, we know the names and details of every single member in our facilities at any moment so can exercise tight control over attendance. As well as being staffed at all opening times we also monitor behaviour inside the gyms on CCTV so we are well prepared to oversee and enforce social distancing.
We have developed detailed, industry-agreed guidance and are confident gyms are safe places to work and safe places to workout. The protocols which have been developed with the input of recognised medical experts cover all aspects of hygiene, disinfection, access control, physical separation, number limitations per venue, monitoring and oversight, education and training.
In summary, we urgently call on the First Minister to re-examine the current, factual evidence, engage with us and our industry bodies, and allow the Scottish people back into gyms as soon as possible so that we can support them in living happier and healthier lives.
Our statement on the government's decision not to reopen gyms
23rd June 2020
We are extremely disappointed that the Prime Minister has decided not to include indoor gyms in his announcement today on easing of restrictions, which will prevent us at PureGym from providing access to gyms for our million plus members. This intense disappointment will be shared by our sector and the ten million gym members across the UK.
We understand that these decisions are not easy, but it is a strange ‘war on obesity’ that sees pubs and restaurants open before gyms. Our facilities are, on average, the size of five or six doubles tennis courts and are exceptionally well ventilated, enabling people to work and exercise safely and securely. Through our existing electronic entry system, we know the names and details of every single member in our facilities at any moment.
Detailed, industry-agreed guidance was submitted to the government on May 7th. The protocols we suggested – which had been developed with the input of recognised medical experts - covered all aspects of hygiene, disinfection, access control, physical separation, number limitations per venue, monitoring and oversight, education and training. We are confident we can provide a safe place for people to work and a safe place to workout having already opened our gyms in Switzerland and Denmark over the last 6 weeks. In those countries, we have welcomed over a million visitors since reopening, with protocols very similar to those we suggested for the UK. We have been audited and visited by police and authorities in those countries on over 60 occasions and passed every test and, as far as we know, there have been no incidents of transmission or infection.
Our sector provides truly vital support to the mental and physical well-being of the UK public and specifically in the fight against Covid-19. We are bitterly disappointed that the one sector that has the potential to help people and that has developed clearly workable protocols for safe operations is prevented from opening for a further undefined period. We urgently call on the Prime Minister to re-examine the evidence, engage with us and our industry bodies, and allow people back into gyms as soon as possible.
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ukactive's letter to the prime minister
Chair of our industry body ukactive, Tanni Grey-Thompson, has written to the Prime Minister seeking clarity on the decision to delay the reopening of gyms and leisure facilities, outlining the threats to community health during the COVID-19 crisis and calling for a clear timetable.read here