Under Tier 3 COVID-19 restrictions Liverpool city region gyms were forced to close but Lancashire gyms can remain open despite the county now also being in Tier 3. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool city region political leaders are challenging the Government to explain why gyms across its six boroughs must remain closed as part of COVID-19 control measures.
From Wednesday, October 14, the Government put Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton into Tier 3 controls measures. This is the highest state of alert and it meant pubs, betting shops, adult gaming centre, leisure centres and gyms had to close.
However, on Friday, neighbouring Lancashire was also placed into Tier 3 but its gyms will be allowed to remain open. Now City Region Metro Mayor, and the six local authority leaders are demanding a reason for the difference, backed up with scientific evidence.
The closure of gyms across Merseyside had already provoked anger and bewilderment among gym-users and owners who insist stringent measures have been put in place to ensure the risk of COVID transmission is minimal.
In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, the city region leaders said: “We are very conscious of the high rates of coronavirus in our region and the pressure this causes on our NHS, and have therefore always understood the need for some action to bring the virus under control and protect our residents.
“However, we have always been clear that we were given no choice about the specific package of measures that would be applied to us, or the scientific evidence to support them.
“We note the decision to move Lancashire into Tier 3 today, while also being concerned that there appear to be differences between the two packages of measures, particularly the opening of gyms.
“We therefore require Government to explain, with evidence, why they believe gyms in the Liverpool city region are a greater risk for COVID transmission, than those elsewhere. We simply will not accept our region being treated differently to other Tier 3 areas, without robust scientific evidence.”
Evidence did emerge earlier in the pandemic of a risk associated with exercise classes and gyms. A peer-reviewed study looked at fitness classes in Japan and South Korea and found the type of breathing association with intense exercise could increase the volume of droplets people expel.
California-based Dr Krutika Kuppalli, a global specialist in emerging infections, said: “Biggest concern is that while working out people breathe with greater intensity and therefore droplets with infectious virus can be transmitted further and infect people in this confined space.
“It’s very difficult to wear a mask when you work out. So when you do, you are breathing with greater intensity and therefore those droplets with potentially infectious virus that people can inhale.”
However, even if that evidence is accepted the question remains as to why gyms in Merseyside most close, but those in Lancashire can remain open. The statement added: “Today we are once again demanding that government urgently supplies us with the scientific evidence behind their decision to close gyms in our area, while allowing them to stay open in other areas.”
One fitness business, Crew 42 in Liverpool city centre, called the decision to cut gyms in Liverpool “crazy”. In a statement, it told LBN: “We’ve studied the Government guidance from the Government website and it states organised exercise classes are only permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing in with people you do not live with or share a support bubble with.
“And as our gym is only pre booked classes and we take social distancing and cleanliness extremely seriously we feel we are adhering to these guidelines. We have chosen to stay open not out of protest but because we are certain that we are following the rules.
“More than our business is at stake here, it’s our clients mental and physical health that is also at stake. We completely respect the Government and their attempts to combat this pandemic. We value the NHS and cannot thank them for that they have been doing for the nation. We have also spoken with a number of NHS staff and doctors who have also supported our decision to stay open.
“We believe a healthy lifestyle will help people stay mentally strong and give them a greater chance of fighting and respiratory decease or illness.”