Health clubs, swimming pools, leisure centres and other indoor sports facilities have reopened to the public for the first time since March.
In order to reopen legally, gyms and leisure facilities must meet the requirements set out by the government's official guidance (titled Operating safely during COVID-19 for providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities, click here to read),
which includes a focus on maintaining social distancing and cleanliness.
Some operators, such as David Lloyd Clubs and Trib3, took the opportunity to throw open their doors at the earliest opportunity – at midnight on 25 July.
One of the sites to open early was the Trib3 studio in Sheffield, which opened shortly after midnight.
"Trib3 Sheffield was among the first fitness facilities to open in the UK, following lockdown, with a 00.15am one-of-a-kind class," said Kevin Yates, CEO.
"The session was fully booked – to physical distancing guidelines.
"The rest of the day at the studio was also fully booked, with waiting lists across our UK studios."
At David Lloyd Club's Hampton site, members queued up in the night to be welcomed back by staff, before taking part in a Blaze-branded HIIT class.
Glenn Earlam, CEO at David Lloyd Clubs, said: “It’s been a long time coming. We didn’t want to wait a second longer than necessary to mark this moment, and that’s why we’ve held what we believe is England’s very first post-lockdown indoor exercise class – which has taken place at midnight exactly 126 days since our last classes.
"To see our members back in the club at David Lloyd Hampton after all this time was a fantastic moment and we can’t wait to see the rest of our members now return to enjoy our premium health, fitness and wellbeing facilities.”
As facilities return to operations, all eyes will be on attendance levels, as operators seek to gauge the public's appetite for returning to fitness following the lockdown.
Publicly listed operator, The Gym Group (TGG), has said it has retained 80 per cent of its members during lockdown
, while internal research shows it expects 92 per cent to return.
Not all operators, however, have restarted operations. While leisure centres can now open, roughly a third of England's publicly-owned facilities have remained shut.
According to Community Leisure UK, almost half of all public leisure facilities (48 per cent) are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the year without financial support from the government.
It is also feared that a "second wave" nationally – or smaller outbreaks of COVID-19 locally – could cause a setback and force further closures.
Culture minister, Oliver Dowden, said that the government is monitoring the situation and would act quickly to implement local lockdowns, such as the one in the city of Leicester.
"If there is any evidence of an escalation of COVID-19, we would not hesitate to take action, including local lockdowns," he said.
To assist safe operations and to help prevent infections, the government has published operational guidance for those working across the reopened sectors, which can be read here.
Industry body ukactive has called for the physical activity sector to demonstrate the "highest standards of health and safety" – and reinforced the collective responsibility and accountability of operators to follow the government’s guidance.
“Our members now have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment, responsibility and accountability for public health, by maintaining the highest possible standards of health and safety," said ukactive CEO Huw Edwards.
“While reopening is an important milestone, we are not yet out of the woods and some facilities and services will remain closed due to the ongoing financial pressures and restrictions caused by COVID-19."