‘I certainly wouldn’t be going to the gym’: Public health expert’s warning over lockdown easing

Gyms in England will be allowed to reopen from 25 July, the government announced this week (PA Images)

Gyms are “a very high risk situation” that should be avoided, according to a public health expert who has warned against the easing of coronavirus lockdown measures in England.

Speaking after the government announced that gyms can reopen in England from 25 July, Professor Allyson Pollock told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that exercise should still be done outside to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

She said: “Much as I might like to use the gym I certainly wouldn’t be doing it, it’s a very high risk situation.

“All the evidence is that if you want to do your exercise it should be outside.”

Oliver Dowden announced on Thursday that gyms, pools, and sports facilities, would be allowed to reopen in England from 25 July, and that outdoor pools can reopen from Saturday.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has announced that gyms and outdoor pools can reopen from 25 July (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)

Gyms must have safety measures in place, Dowden said, including limiting the number of people using a facility at one time, extra cleaning, and smaller class sizes.

He said face coverings would not need to be worn in gyms, as a “whole series of mitigating measures” would be in place.

Other safety measures would include spacing out of equipment or taking some machines out of service to maintain social distancing, and introducing one-way systems.

Temporary floor markings should be introduced in exercise and dance studios to help people stay distanced during classes and customers and staff should be encouraged to shower and change at home - although changing rooms will be open.

Gyms will be subjected to stringent social distancing measures when they reopen on 25 July (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)

Following on from the reopening of hairdressers, the government also said beauticians, nail bars, tanning shops, spas and tattooists will be allowed to open their doors again from 13 July.

Pollock, a member of the independent SAGE group of scientists who are prominent critics of the government’s COVID-19 response, went on to criticise the government’s track and trace system and said that lockdown had been eased too quickly.

She said: "We'd all be a lot more comfortable if we knew there was good data going locally to local public health departments and that there was an effective contact tracing system.

"But there are really grave concerns because all the signs are that we don't have an effective test and trace system.

"Only half of all the cases contacted are actually giving their contact details.

"We don't know what's actually happening, whether people are going into self-isolation and quarantining with their contacts for 14 days."

Pollock criticised the lack of data published by the government surrounding the track and trace scheme.

Read More: Face masks could prevent 20,000 UK coronavirus deaths, experts suggest

“We don't know whether people are managing to do this and how they're being supported,” she added.

"To go into quarantine for 14 days is a very big sacrifice so it's really imperative that we understand whether this test and trace system is working.

"We shouldn't be in this situation at all, it's taken us over four months to get a test and trace system running."

Professor Allyson Pollock has pointed to Scotland's gradual easing of lockdown as a safer strategy (Allysonpollock.com)

She said Scotland had put "much better" measures in place for contact tracing through the public health teams.

She said: "This is exactly what needs to happen urgently if you don't want a repeat of another Leicester.

"The mayor's report from Leicester is absolutely devastating because it highlights the way the commercial tests were not being returned to Leicester."

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