A response to constituent emails about the reopening of indoor gyms, swimming pools and other sporting activities

I have been contacted by a number of local residents about the Government’s approach to reopening recreational sport and training, including swimming.

I have now written to the Secretary of State to highlight the comments made to me and to encourage the Government to push forward to get our facilities safely open as soon as possible so sport and training can move into the next phases.

There is already guidance available here for elite and amateur sport to help navigated phased return: https://www.gov.uk/…/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-phase…

When I listened to the Prime Minister announcing plans to lift lockdown restrictions I did think on a personal level about how competitive and more recreational sport and training could progress during the next couple of months, so I was not surprised to receive the number of emails that I have.

I have been contacted by constituents who participate in and enjoy a range of different sports including ballet, swimming, gymnastics, and the local gym sector.

I start of from a position that I am a sports fan. On a personal level, I have played and coached rugby for many years, and also competed in cricket and rowing, I continue to try to fit in some training despite the demands of being an MP. I enjoy watching sport and my family are also personally involved in elite sport. One of my brothers is medical director of British Olympic Swimming and doctor for Bath Rugby.

From a professional view as a GP, I understand the importance of sport and exercise in achieving positive mental and physical health. Some of my correspondents have been from parents with young children, and I think that it is so important for children to have such an interest and mindful of the demands of lockdown, the closure of schools and exercise clubs where some of these sports may take place, I do not want children to lose interest in these pursuits. I am also mindful of the popularity of gyms not only to maintain personal health through adulthood but also to train for adult elite sport.

In normal circumstances, I would not wish for sport and exercise to be restricted in this way, and from speaking with Ministers and parliamentary colleagues, they hold the same view but we are dealing with the worst public health crisis for a generation.

Regardless of what may or may not open on 4 July, we are going to have to live with the reality of this virus, possibly for longer than many people may think. We all want to return to train and take part in the sports that we love but it must be done in a safe and controlled environment. We have got to work out a way how to exercise and train indoors, possibly in warm and damp environment, whilst working to prevent Covid 19, an airborne virus, from circulating.

Many are asking why outdoors but not indoors? This is because people doing strenuous indoor activity (workout, dancing, singing) produce far more droplets (aerosol generating activity) which, if in confined spaces for long periods risk exposure, we have to take slow steps to get people back to what they love safely.

You may have seen this tweet from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from 23 June 2020 which recognised that we all want to hit the gym and keep Britain fit.

Oliver Dowden Tweet

Subject to public health guidance, the Government is hoping to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in mid-July.

I have already raised questions during previous months about the sector- you can read the questions and answers that I received (not only about sport but other topics) via this weblink: https://www.parliament.uk/…/wri…/written-questions-answers/…

I also raised the prospect of the return of contact sports with the Sports Minister this week who is working with Governing bodies to try to restart in a safe way.

I hope that the above has offered some reassurance, but I will continue to monitor this issue with the hope that swift progress can be made.