Pools, gyms and outdoor arts performances to return in latest lockdown easing

People play in the water at Hathersage Outdoor Swimming Pool in Derbyshire, as the UK could encounter the hottest July day on
People play in the water at Hathersage Outdoor Swimming Pool in Derbyshire, as the UK could encounter the hottest July day on record later this afternoon.

Swimming pools, gyms and outdoor arts performances are to begin reopening in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said outdoor pools will be able to reopen from Saturday to be followed by indoor pools, gyms and other sports facilities from July 25.

Theatres, opera, dance and music will also be able to resume outdoors from the weekend although audience numbers will be restricted and will be subject to social-distancing rules.

Following the opening for hairdressers last week, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close contact services will be able to welcome back customers from Monday.

At the same time the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has also published guidance to enable competitive grassroots team sports to resume, beginning with cricket at the weekend.

Mr Dowden told a Downing Street press conference: “I’m really urging people to get out there and to play their part: buy the tickets for outdoor plays and musical recitals, get to your local gallery and support your local businesses.

“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 Culture Secretary said the Government was also changing the planning rules to protect theatres, concert halls and live music venues forced to close during the pandemic from demolition or change of use.

The decision to allow pools and other sports facilities to reopen follows a recent visit by officials led by the deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, to a number of venues to observe their preparations for reopening safely.

Under DCMS guidelines numbers using the facilities will be limited, equipment will be spaced out and people will be encouraged to book ahead.

Players taking part in team sports will be encouraged to arrive for matches already changed and warmed up while avoiding unnecessary contact such as handshakes or huddles.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, the Government is working with the performing arts sector to pilot a small number of indoor performances with socially distanced audiences.

Officials are working with bodies such as UK Theatre, the Association of British Orchestras and the Musicians’ Union to identify suitable pilots.

Mr Dowden said the the major easing of the lockdown last weekend to allow pubs and restaurants to reopen had not adversely affected efforts to control coronavirus.

Indoor sports facilities will be able to re-open from July 25 (David Parry/PA)

He said he had “further extensive conversations” with chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty before announcing the latest easings.

“All the data is continuing to move in the right direction,” he said.

“Prior to July 4 we announced a number of easements. We haven’t seen as a result of those that the number (of cases) is increasing. In fact it continues to decline.”

Duncan Bannatyne, owner of health club and spa firm Bannatyne Group and star of Dragon’s Den, welcomed the news that they would now be able to reopen.

“The fitness sector is vitally important, both for the nation’s health and the economy,” he said.

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Beauticians, nail salons, gyms and the wider fitness sector have faced months without customers, and they’ll be pleased to see that they can finally get back to business.”


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