Gyms, health clubs, leisure centres and fitness studios in England are back in business today as the one-month lockdown ends.
Many gyms opened their doors at 00.01 this morning (2 December), with thousands of exercisers across the country rushing back to the gym floor as soon as they were allowed.
Operators not relying on group exercise can look forward to a certain amount of stability for the next few weeks, as fitness and physical activity facilities are able to remain open under all three tiers of the government's new COVID-19 alert system.
While the government's COVID-19 Winter Plan excludes gyms in general from the tier 3 baseline measures, group exercise has been banned in areas which fall in tier 3, raising concerns for boutique operators and others that rely on group exercise.
The industry continues to fight to reverse this decision, as there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread in group classes.
There is also a possible threat of a further lockdown in the new year – something which may be triggered if Christmas celebrations lead to a spike in the infection rate – with the gym sector fighting for essential service status to avoid what would be a castarophic third lockdown.
However, for today, the industry is celebrating reopening and welcoming back members.
“Reopening in England is clearly a major milestone and the second lockdown has seen our sector mobilise in an incredible way, with facilities and their members lobbying their local representatives to reinforce the evidence that these services are essential and COVID-secure," said Huw Edwards, CEO of industry body, ukactive.
“Looking forward, the fitness and leisure sector still requires a tailored package of support for its recovery in 2021, including a combination of business rate relief, VAT exemptions, and incentives that not only help to rebuild, but also encourage more people back into physical activity.
“The economic recovery of our sector is inextricably linked with the future of our nation’s health, and this package of support requires increased public health messaging about physical activity, through both the Better Health campaign and the Prime Minister’s obesity strategy."
HCM editor, Liz Terry, said: "This year has been a long haul and has tested the resilience of everyone in the sector. There may be more battles ahead, but today and in the run up to Christmas, we can get back to doing what we do best – looking after the health and wellbeing of members and supporting them to stay healthy and fit to fight the virus."
From today, all outdoor grassroots and amateur sport can also resume under the three-tier system – and will be allowed to stay open in all three tiers.
Indoor sport, however, will not be exempt, meaning that measures such as the Rule of Six will place limitations on activities.
There is also good news not just for the UK fitness industry but society in general, as – having identified the first effective COVID-19 treatment in Dexamethasone and created one of the first vaccines (AstraZeneca/Oxford) – the UK has now become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for widespread use.
A decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) means that the jab, which offers up to 95 per cent protection against COVID-19, could begin to be rolled out as early as next week (7 December).
NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said the UK's health service was preparing for "the largest-scale vaccination campaign in our country's history".
It is believed that around 50 hospitals are now on standby, with emergency vaccination centres being set up in venues such as conference centres.
A mass vaccination project could remove the threat of any further, nationwide lockdowns, which have wrecked havoc within the fitness industry.