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New data shows ‘extremely low’ Covid prevalence in gyms

Gyms and leisure centres are associated with an “extremely low” prevalence of Covid-19, according to new research. The entire leisure sector was closed between March and July, but the industry is adamant that it has proved that it can mitigate risk and provide a critical public service in boosting health, wellbeing and immunity during the current pandemic.

Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres were closed in Bradford as part of a local lockdown but, according to ukactive, which represents more than 7,000 public and private facilities, it is illogical to simply group gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools with other industries like pubs and restaurants.

“Our sector is helping to get the nation fitter and better prepared to fight the virus as we enter the autumn, providing an essential health service to the UK,” said Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive. “Its role will become even more important over the coming weeks and months.”

Gyms and leisure facilities in England have had more than 22 million visits since reopening in July and, according to ukactive’s latest data, there have been 78 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its customers.

The reported cases did not show specific transmission in a gym environment, but arose where authorities had informed facilities that a user with a subsequent positive result had attended a facility within a certain time period. There were also 38 Covid-19 cases among members of staff at gyms and leisure centres.

The data comes from 1,500 facilities between July 25 and Sept 13 and, according to ukactive, “the prevalence of the virus within the sector’s facilities remains extremely low… and very few people are visiting gyms with the virus”. The number of cases per 100,000 visits was 0.34. This has given the sector confidence that the protocols for mitigating, monitoring and reporting the virus are effective.

They also believe that they are well positioned to capture real-time data effectively and quickly identify issues, with the details of all users held by the leisure operator. Most gyms and leisure facilities reopened in July according to Government guidelines which require social distancing among staff and customers, limited numbers, ventilation throughout, and special cleaning protocols.

“These findings show that the number of people with confirmed cases of Covid-19 visiting gyms remains extremely low, which is evidence of the huge efforts being made by gyms to ensure people do not visit if they might have the virus,” said Edwards.

“This shows that the proactive protocols put in place by gyms and leisure facilities to prevent people with the virus from visiting them are working, alongside the highest standards of cleanliness and safety to reduce the risk.

“We must remain vigilant and continue to monitor the situation closely so that the Government and local authorities are armed with the best possible evidence to inform decisions about the sector.”