Spring 2021 Covid-19 Road Map — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:42 pm on 22nd March 2021.

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Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley 6:42 pm, 22nd March 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell. I thank my hon. Friend Nick Fletcher for securing this important debate. I would like to use my time to focus on the two petitions that relate to gyms. As I have said before in this place, gyms are incredibly important to people’s health and wellbeing. Therefore, their reopening is vital as we recover from this pandemic.

In July last year, as much of the country was reopening, my constituency was placed under enhanced local restrictions after the first lockdown. That meant that local gyms, such as NRGym and Hi-Energy in Keighley, were unable to reopen at the same time as gyms in the rest of the country. Of course, it was the same for all fitness and dance studios, such as the excellent AW School of Dance run by Andrea Wortley in Keighley and Pure Pilates in Ilkley, which is also an excellent business, run by Kirstin Ferrie. I have visited all those businesses to see how lockdown has impacted them.

Instead of these businesses being able to reopen on 25 July last year, they had to wait until the following September to welcome back their members. That was despite gyms and studios being proven to be some of the safest places to visit. I saw that at first hand when I met Julie Cardus-Anderson, the owner of Hi-Energy, last October. That fitness studio, like many others, had gone to great lengths, and at cost, to make itself covid-secure. Each exercise area had its own sanitation station, specialist fans were installed to improve ventilation, and the maximum capacity had been halved from 20 to 10—all to try to make the environment more covid-secure. Despite that, Hi-Energy and all fitness studios across Keighley, Ilkley, Silsden and the Worth valley faced months of forced closures. That makes Government support for those businesses absolutely crucial.

Initiatives such as the furlough scheme have provided vital support to gyms that have been forced to close over the past year. I am pleased to hear of the Government’s announcement of the restart grants in this month’s Budget, which will provide an extra £18,000 for leisure and gym businesses. That will bring much certainty to those businesses so that all can eventually open safely, but there is never any substitute for being open. I am delighted, therefore, that gyms will be able to start opening in step 2 of the Government’s road map to easing the restrictions. The road map states that gyms will open no later than 12 April, but it is vital to ensure that that happens. I share the concerns of my hon. Friend Greg Smith about other fitness environments and fitness studios being able to reopen on 12 July. I want all fitness studios, dance studios and gym environments to open on the same day. We cannot overestimate the importance of going to the gym and the impact that that has on our constituents’ mental health and wellbeing.

This pandemic has made us all think differently about the importance of good physical and mental health. The reopening of gyms and dance and fitness studios is crucial in our recovery. I very much look forward to that happening across my constituency and the rest of Britain.