The chief executive of PureGym has told City A.M. his chain of cut-price fitness centres are better equipped to open safely than the UK’s high street retailers.
PureGym boss Humphrey Cobbold said gyms were vital to the nation’s mental and physical health and should be one of the first things to reopen.
“We would find if difficult to rationalise why you wouldn’t open gyms at least at the same time as non-essential retail, because we’re an essential service with much-stricter protocols than you have in general retail,” Cobbold told City A.M.
In the first reopening last year gyms, fitness centres and personal beauty services were some of the final things to be allowed to operate once more.
Cobbold said a repeat of that sequence would be wrong.
“We’ve been held to the stiffest set of rules that any reopening subsector has been forced to adhere to.”
“We’d like to open agains as soon as other commercial activities…give us six days notice and we can go”.
The fitness centre company told bondholders this week it was burning through £4.5m a week while doors stayed closed.
Cobbold and his counterparts at the Gym Group and David Lloyd have banded together to urge the government to class gym use as a low-risk activity when reopening society.
Data from UK Active found gym users had a lower Covid-19 infection rate last year throughout the rolling restrictions, lockdowns and reopenings.
There were more than 75 million visits to gyms and leisure centres between the reopening of facilities in July 2020 and the third national lockdown at the start of January, with 1,277 Covid-19 cases reported during those 23 weeks.
In all of the UK 2.3 million Covid-19 cases occurred during that period, with gym users recording an overall rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits.
The case rate rose from 0.1 per 100,000 visits in the week commencing July 27 to a high of 4.1 at the end of the October when tiered restrictions increased.
This had almost halved again by the final week of December.
Cobbold said there were no instances of so-called “super-spreader events” in the UK across the gym network after the first lockdown.