Gym bosses urge Boris Johnson to let them reopen by May as PureGym chief says firm is ‘burning £500,000 a DAY’ during ‘brutally tough’ lockdown
- All gyms have been closed in England since third national lockdown in January
- Gyms were also forced to close in previous lockdowns in March and November
- Gyms were forced to close in some areas which were under toughest ‘Tier’ rules
- CEO of PureGym today told BBC Radio 4 he hoped gyms would reopen by May
Gym bosses have today urged Boris Johnson to let them reopen by May, as one company chief warned his firm is ‘burning through £500,000 a day’ in lockdown.
In a stark warning, Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of PureGym said the company been surviving without income for two-thirds of a year due to restrictions.
The firm, which has 275 gyms across the country and is one of the largest operators in the UK, had ‘burnt through’ £120million in what had been a ‘brutally tough’ year for the industry.
But he said he was hopeful that gyms, all of which were forced to shut again in January due to the national lockdown, could reopen in April or May.
It comes as Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown was today revealed, and is set to be discussed in Parliament later today.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Cobbold said: ‘It’s been brutally tough.
Gym bosses have today urged Boris Johnson to let them reopen by May, as one company chief warned his firm is ‘burning through £500,000 a day’ in lockdown. Pictured: A member of staff at a gym cleaning equipment in November – when gyms were allowed to be open
In a stark warning, Humphrey Cobbold (pictured), CEO of PureGym said the company been surviving without income for two-thirds of a year due to restrictions
It comes as Boris Johnson’s (pictured today while running in Westminster) roadmap out of lockdown was today revealed, and is set to be discussed in Parliament later today.
‘We are burning about £500,000 a day at the moment and that’s about the average over eight months of closure.
Vaccines working ‘spectacularly well’
Covid vaccines being used in Britain are working ‘spectacularly well’ and cutting hospital admissions caused by coronavirus by as much as 95 per cent, according to a major study.
Researchers today published the first real-world evidence of how well the jabs protect people against Covid and said the results were ‘very encouraging’ and ‘brilliant’. Confirmation that the vaccines work outside of clinical trials will lay the groundwork for Boris Johnson to roll-out his roadmap out of lockdown today.
Scientists counted Covid hospital admissions in Scotland among people who had had their first dose of a jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a ray of hope for Britain’s lockdown-easing plans, results showed the jabs slashed the risk of hospital admission from Covid by up to 85 and 94 per cent, respectively, four weeks after the first dose.
Academics from the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde, as well as Public Health Scotland, claimed the data provided ‘compelling evidence’ that both vaccines prevent severe illness.
Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh said: ‘These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future. We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against Covid hospitalisations. Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.’
The study was the first of its kind and currently does not have enough data to analyse how well the jabs prevent death, stop transmission of the virus, protection beyond one month, or to compare the two vaccines, the team said.
The promising findings mirror data from Israel’s world-beating roll-out and come after the UK’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi today claimed evidence the jabs also curb transmission ‘looks good’.
‘If you top that up therefore, we’ll have burnt through £120million or so through the lockdowns.’
On opening up, which he said he hoped could happen in either April or May, he said: ‘We’ve made the case to Government to get gyms reopened.
‘We’ve demonstrated that gyms are safe and that we can make a massive contribution on the health of the nation, both physical and mental.
‘And that’s why we hope to get open ideally alongside non-essential retail.’
The reopening call has also been backed by bosses at rival firm Gym Group.
Richard Darwin, chief executive of the The Gym Group, told the Sun: ‘The link between exercise and mental health is well understood – our members rely on working out in our gyms to improve their state of mind.’
All gyms have been closed across England since the third national lockdown was introduced.
Gyms were also closed in the first and second national lockdowns, while fitness centres in areas which fell under stricter rules in the Tier system were also forced to close at other times last year.
Today, Boris Johnson faced Tory demands to speed up lockdown easing and make it ‘irreversible’ as he vowed to unveil a ‘cautious’ exit strategy – with all schools reopening from March 8 but precious few other easings until Easter.
The PM is set to reveal his ‘roadmap’ in a statement to the Commons this afternoon once it is rubber-stamped by Cabinet, after scientists seemingly won the battle for a slow approach regardless of the surging vaccination drive.
The first steps to freedom will prioritise getting children fully back into classrooms in a fortnight’s time, while people will also be able meet one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic from March 8.
However, the next stage of loosening will not be until March 29, when the Rule of Six will make a comeback – and be extended to allow two households to gather, enabling relatives to meet properly for the first time in months.
That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.
But people will not be allowed to take holidays over the Easter weekend. And shops, hairdressers and pubs are all likely to remain closed until mid-April at the earliest, regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown.
The roadmap, which runs to around 60 pages, is set to include modelling supporting the government’s tentative strategy.
It will be published alongside more positive news about the effectiveness of jabs in reducing transmission, with vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi saying the evidence ‘looks good’. A major study published today found they were working ‘spectacularly well’ and cutting hospital admissions by as much as 95 per cent.
But Mr Johnson will run the gauntlet of anger on his own benches this afternoon, as he sets four tests for continuing with any easing including no new concerns emerging about variant strains. The other criteria are the vaccine rollout going well, jabs being effective at reducing hospital admissions and deaths, and avoiding a surge in hospital cases.
Mr Johnson’s plans for easing lockdown have been bolstered by the latest data whihc shows Covid-19 infection rates have continued to drop, with 9,834 more cases reported – a fall of 10 per cent on last week – while the 215 new daily deaths brought Britain’s total up to 120,580
Notably the rules do not mean that the loosening must stop if infections rise – as ministers believe they inevitably will when schools open. Instead the focus will be on serious illness that increases pressure on the NHS, with the goal of keeping the R number below one apparently downgraded.
Previous modelling has suggested that a third peak will happen when restrictions are eased, with the question whether it risks overwhelming capacity.
No more Tiers: PM ditches local lockdown system for easings
Boris Johnson has confirmed he is ditching the Tiers system for lockdown easing.
The local levels for restrictions are being abandoned as the country comes out of the latest draconian squeeze.
No10 said the outbreak was ‘uniform’ in the country and as a result the arrangements will be changes on a national basis.
There is expected to be a five-week gap between the main steps in the roadmap, even longer than had been anticipated.
Mr Johnson tweeted this morning: ‘Our priority has always been getting children back into school which we know is crucial for their education and wellbeing. We’ll also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely.
‘Our decisions will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.’
However, ex-Cabinet minister David Davis said the positive news on vaccines together with the warmer weather going into the summer meant cases will fall. He urged the PM to ensure changes to the lockdown were ‘irreversible’.
Tory MP Tim Loughton warned that there must not be ‘any more shifting of the goalposts’, attacking the idea that a five-week delay is needed between loosenings. He told Sky News the ‘default’ position should be to ease the crackdown. ‘Let’s be opening all these things up unless something absolutely material information changes that,’ he said.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, chair of the 70-strong Tory Covid Recovery Group, said: ‘Keeping restrictions in place ”because a new variant may come along in the future” is a recipe for never unlocking. Ever.’
Children in Scotland and Wales are already returning to classrooms from today, although the move is being staggered.
Business chiefs are urging Mr Johnson to ‘be bold’ to save the economy.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said now was the time ‘to commit to reopening our pubs so that thousands of communities and businesses up and down the country can begin to emerge from this crisis’.
The route out of lockdown – what happens when? From outdoor sports to a pint in the pub… and the potential road blocks that could STILL stand in the way
Today, Boris Johnson will take the first step on a ‘cautious – but irreversible’ journey towards bringing the country out of lockdown as he sets out his roadmap for the next few months.
Cautious because of what happened in December last year when a short period of loosening caused a huge spike in cases; irreversible because the Prime Minister knows the public appetite for a return of restrictions is gone, so he must tread carefully.
Mr Johnson’s blueprint sees a new series of relaxations on current restrictions in each month up to June, a four-phase plan to get Britain as close to normal as possible while the vaccine rollouts continues at pace.
It is understood the PM met with Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to hammer out of the finer details last night, and will present his full plan to cabinet ahead of its unveiling.
At each stage the government has been urged to consider four ‘tests’ – infections, not overwhelming the NHS, vaccinations, and protection from new variants – on which to base their decision to move forward.
Under the mantra of ‘data not dates’, it is understood that there is wiggle room to delay a relaxation if at any point there are fears of moving too quickly or one of the tests is not met.
While the exact details will be made public later on, here is what is understood to be planned for Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown:
PART 1 – MARCH 8
Schools reopen ++ care home visits return ++ meet a friend outdoors
SCHOOLS – All schools in England will welcome back pupils from both primary and secondary years on March 8. Boris Johnson previously said parents would be given two weeks’ notice of a return, which is a fortnight from today.
Sports will also return, meaning children will be able to take part in PE lessons and supervised after-school activities.
According to the Daily Telegraph there is no requirement that sports be outdoors only, meaning swimming pools and indoor courts could be used.
It is hoped that every child could be tested for coronavirus before their return, with schools given the freedom to choose whether to stagger the initial return.
Pupils wear face masks at Outwood Academy Adwick in Doncaster last September
Across the rest of the UK, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already confirmed that schools in Scotland will start to reopen from today.
In Wales, primary schools will begin the process of reopening next Monday and Mark Drakeford will announce a ‘review’ of the lockdown on Friday.
In Northern Ireland schools will remain closed to most pupils until at least March 8. Stormont is discussing what to do about general restrictions.
SOCIALISING OUTDOORS – Elsewhere, one person will be able to meet a relative or friend in an outdoor public space to socialise.
CARE HOMES – Care home residents will also be allowed a single designated visitor, meaning a child or loved one will be allowed to see their relative for the first time in months. The visitor will need to wear PPE and test negative for Covid before entering. Holding hands is allowed but kissing and hugging remain barred.
Sports will return meaning children will be able to take part in outdoor activities (file picture)
PART 1b – MARCH 29
Rule of six outdoors ++ Outdoor sports ++ ‘Stay at home’ removed
SOCIALISING OUTDOORS – It is understood that the blanket ‘stay at home’ rule will be removed by March 29, shortly before the Easter weekend begins on April 2.
Most significantly, the ‘rule of six’ for gatherings of friends and relatives will return. This allows six people from different households or more than six from two households to meet in an outdoor space.
OUTDOOR SPORTS – With the weather hopefully better, outdoor sports including those involving teams like football and basketball will return along with golf and tennis.
INDOOR SPORTS – Indoor sports will remain off the table, except in school. It is possible there could be advice urging team sports to minimise contact, for example touch rugby rather than rugby union.
TRAVELLING – The ‘stay local’ rule will also be removed here, so people will be allowed to drive to see a relative or friends, as long as any socialising remains outdoors.
WORKING FROM HOME – The removal of ‘stay at home’ orders however does not impact work, with no change to guidance on people work from home ‘where possible’.
Shoppers walk through Kingston town centre in South West London in November last year
PART 2 – APRIL
Non-essential shops reopen ++ Outdoor dining could return
SHOPS – Government sources have been reluctant to give details on plans further out than March, but it is believed the big one for April will be non-essential retail being allowed to return.
Many stores have chosen to stop click and collect services during the national lockdown, but this practice could be encouraged to avoid large numbers of people going into shops where it is avoidable.
The two-metre rule is likely to stay in place as shops make their initial return, it has been one of the government’s most effective pieces of guidance, with shops spending millions on signage telling customers to stay apart.
OUTDOOR DINING – At this point there could also be either a takeaway service allowed for pub and restaurants, or possibly even outdoor dining.
UNCERTAIN TIMING – The exact date of this is unclear, with the Sun putting it at around April 12 to 19, with hairdressers also allowed to reopen around the same time.
The Telegraph put it at April, but say hairdressers will take until May, while the Guardian claim a late April date. The Times claims shops could be open for Easter.
Business leaders and backbench Tories have been urging Mr Johnson to ‘be bold’ in his plans for reopening the economy, including allowing pubs to get a full summer (stock picture)
PART 3 – MAY
Indoor dining at pubs & restaurants ++ Hairdressers & salons reopen
INDOOR DINING – In March 2020, well over a year ago at this point, unrestricted revellers packed out pubs for the last time before the country jumped into full lockdown.
May could be a crucial moment in the easing of restrictions with the partial return of indoor gatherings, both in pubs and restaurants.
This is seen as one of the riskier areas of virus transmission for the government and will be looked at carefully much closer to the time before a decision is made.
By this stage, if the Government has hit its vaccine rollout plans, the most vulnerable groups to Covid-19 – those over 50 – will have all been offered their jab by now.
Tory MPs and the UK hospitality sector are lobbying for an even earlier opening and have stressed that many pubs and restaurants are facing a ‘cash crunch’.
They want to see serving inside happening as soon as it is safe, with table service and a requirement to wear masks when not eating or drinking likely to become the norm.
HAIRDRESSERS – Hairdressers and beauty salons could also open, although the Sun has reported this could actually take place by mid-April.
Part 4 – June
Holidays return ++ Indoor household mixing
HOLIDAYS – At this point the government is creeping towards every adult in Britain being offered their first Covid jab, and a level of immunity in society some believe to be adequate for the biggest loosening of all – holidays.
The tourism sector is one of the worst hit by the pandemic, with only hotels at airport filling their rooms – and most of them are not by choice.
It is also believed this loosening of restrictions is only for UK holidays rather than international travel which could require the development of a vaccine passport programme.
INDOOR SOCIALISING – Different households may also, finally, be able to meet indoors. But much of the changes in stage four will be dependent on how effective the vaccine rollout is by then.
The biggest, but most elusive, easing is likely to be holidays. Pictured: Lyme Regis last May
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