Gym Group to reopen most branches in England from 25 July

The Gym Group, one of Britain’s largest operators of low-cost gyms, has set out plans to reopen almost all of its establishments in England from 25 July, with Covid-19 measures including apps for customers to check if gyms are busy.

Initially, 160 of its 179 branches will open on the first date permitted under government guidelines issued on Thursday, with the remainder – in Leicester, Scotland and Wales – to follow when restrictions are relaxed.

Gyms, pools and salons to reopen shortly in England

There will be a trial of 24-hour opening in a small number of establishments at first while new operating procedures are tried out, including spacing out equipment, limiting users at any one time, temperature checks on staff, improved ventilation and sanitation, and cleaning kit after each use.

The group will also encourage people to use gyms and leisure facilities at quieter periods by providing members with a live “gym busyness” online tracker and recent usage patterns.

The Gym Group has lost more than 20% of its membership during the four months of lockdown, despite freezing all payments, and has just under 700,000 remaining customers, with an average age of 32. It said it would give options for all members to continue to freeze payments if necessary.

Richard Darwin, the chief executive of the Gym Group, said: “Opening safely is our primary concern and we have comprehensive plans in place for both our colleagues and members as we reopen our gyms. We are pleased to have been able to work with government and the rest of the health and fitness sector on how best to operate in a Covid-secure way.

“We are in the process of unfurloughing our colleagues, who will be ready to open the doors of our gyms in England on 25 July and in the other home nations once restrictions are lifted. We are encouraged by the response of our members, the vast majority of whom are keen to get back to the gym to begin working out again.”

Its rival operator PureGym said on Thursday that it would open its 220 gyms in England from 27 July. It said the protocols would be similar to those in its gyms in Switzerland and Denmark, which had been open for several weeks without known incidents of transmission or infections.

Gym operators had criticised the UK government for first announcing that restaurants and pubs could reopen, while keeping sports and health facilities closed. However, on Thursday the government announced that indoor sports and swimming facilities could open from Saturday 25 July, with coronavirus safety measures in place. Outdoor pools can reopen, and some team sports restart, from Saturday.

Gyms in Northern Ireland are permitted to open from Friday. Scotland and Wales have yet to relax restrictions, while Leicester remains in local lockdown after a surge in Covid-19 cases in the English city.

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