The UK’s biggest gym chain could mount legal action after being told to close its venues in Liverpool, a decree it says has “no scientific basis” and will destroy businesses.
PureGym said it was “extremely disappointed” at being ordered to close seven venues on the back of strict new tier 3 coronavirus restrictions in the area.
Humphrey Cobbold, the chief executive of PureGym, urged politicians to reconsider the “retrograde step which has no scientific basis”. “If they fail to do so …they will be actively contributing to the wilful destruction of a sector that is an essential service where many operators are already in financial distress,” he said.
Businesses would “not stand by and watch this destruction happen”, Cobbold said. “We will consider any and every course of action that can be taken to support our industry and members including recourse to legal processes if that is what it takes.”
The government is already facing a legal challenge from within the hospitality industry where leaders have complained that new rules are not based on “tangible scientific evidence” .
Gyms and leisure centres were among the last businesses to reopen in the summer and, to comply with social distancing rules, they have slashed their occupancy levels and introduced stringent cleaning regimes.
The industry argues the safety protocols put in place have worked with the incidence of coronavirus estimated to be one in 100,000, by ukactive, the industry trade body, which has been gathering data since July.
Glenn Earlam, the chief executive of the David Lloyd chain, said he was “astounded” by the decision to close gyms and leisure centres but allow restaurants to remain open.
“Since our clubs reopened on 25 July we have had just eight cases from over 130,000 member visits in our two clubs in the area at Knowsley and Speke, with, most critically, not a single known in-club transmission case,” Earlam said.
Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, said there had been no consultation and called for the closures to be delayed while the evidence was reviewed.
“We continue to call for decisions to be made on the latest available scientific and operational evidence from our sector, which to date shows an extremely low prevalence of Covid-19 in our members’ facilities,” he said.
Gym-goers would be “bitterly disappointed to not be able to exercise, especially as the nights get longer and the temperatures colder”, Cobbold added.
“This decision will have a profound impact on some fitness facilities which are in a perilous state after the first lockdown and it will worsen the physical and mental health of the local population.”