The government has been given a stark warning that thousands of jobs are at risk in gyms and leisure centres in tier 4 areas if they remain shut until after the Covid-19 vaccine has been rolled out across Britain – a process that could take months.
Sports industry figures reacted with alarm on Sunday morning after hearing the health secretary Matt Hancock suggest that the new tier 4 restrictions would not be lifted any time soon, and that the new variant “will be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine.”
Many are calling for immediate support to help the parts of the sport sector that have again had to close their doors less than three weeks after reopening and are now unlikely to benefit from the surge in demand for their facilities in the new year.
The chief executive of UK Active, Huw Edwards, a body that represents more than 4,000 gyms and leisure centres, warned that Hancock’s comments would “cause great alarm across all business sectors and especially the physical activity sector, with the start of the new year being a traditional period of great demand for facilities and services.
“The creation of a new tier 4 in England will impact thousands of gyms, pools and leisure centres, sparking further uncertainty for their future and the people they employ,” he added. “Support from the government will be essential for businesses to survive.”
Most grassroots sport has been stopped again for the 17.7 million people in tier 4, an area that includes all of London and most of the south east.
However under the new rules, outdoor sports facilities – including golf courses, tennis courts and outdoor swimming pools – are allowed to open and can be used by individual households, bubbles or two people from different households.
People can also run and cycle outdoors with their household, support bubble, or one other person. Unlike in the first two lockdowns, organised outdoor sport for under-18s and disabled people is also allowed.