Boris Johnson’s decision to allow pubs to reopen before swimming pools “defies logic”, the boss of the company that runs Greenwich Council’s leisure facilities said last night.
The prime minister told MPs yesterday that many of England’s coronavirus restrictions would be eased from July 4 – effectively ending the Covid-19 lockdown.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open their doors, so long as they keep the details of who visits them. But swimming pools and indoor gyms “need to remain closed for now”, Johnson said, calling them “close-proximity venues”.
Johnson said he agreed with Dartford’s Conservative MP, Gareth Johnson, who said people should “their patriotic best for Britain and go to the pub”.
The news brought an angry reaction from Mark Sesnan, the boss of GLL, which runs facilities for Greenwich and councils across London and beyond. The organisation, which brands itself Better, was founded out of Greenwich Council’s leisure services department in 1993 and now runs 270 centres, but has been hit hard by the enforced closure.
GLL’s centres in Greenwich borough include the Waterfront Leisure Centre in Woolwich and Charlton Lido.
In an email to customers, he said: “The government has made a potentially catastrophic mistake by leaving community leisure centres, indoor gyms and swimming pools off the list of businesses that can re-open on 4th July. Nor given any indication when they might re-open. This needs urgent review and we need to open as early as possible.
“This will be bad for business, bad for jobs and bad for the health of the nation.”
He said the decision would put thousands of jobs at risk, lead to leisure facilities closing and “vulnerable businesses, including many not-for-profit organisations, folding”.
Last month, a report to Greenwich Council’s cabinet said the pandemic had resulted in “serious financial implications for GLL due to the loss of revenue at borough leisure centres. This is the subject of pan-London discussions.” Other boroughs where GLL operate include Camden, Croydon, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
Two weeks ago, Southwark Council paid half a million pounds to bail out its operator, Everyone Active; in Peterborough, the local operator Vivacity has closed altogether.
“It has been proven that conditions such as obesity and diabetes significantly increase the risks associated with Covid-19,” Sesnan added.
“We all enjoy a pint. But if pubs and restaurants can reopen it defies logic that indoor sports and leisure facilities remain closed – particularly public facilities designed to serve local communities. This decision appears misguided and short sighted. We need an opening date for our sector immediately.”
GLL is asking customers to sign a Sport England petition to urge the government to think again.
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