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UK Fitness and Leisure Sector Reports Latest Covid-19 Safety Data

Gyms, pools and leisure centres across the UK have demonstrated further evidence of low prevalence of COVID-19 in their facilities, with new data showing an overall rate of just 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits.

Since re-opening in England on 25 July 2020, gyms and leisure facilities have continued to follow strict government guidance, ensuring social distancing among staff and customers, proper ventilation throughout, and comprehensive cleaning protocols.

The sector worked closely with the Government to develop the guidance for reopening safely, including ukactive facilitating visits to a range of facilities for the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and SAGE representatives.

Supported by the industry’s ‘Fit Together’ campaign, ukactive members have shown their commitment to the safety standards within the guidance, helping to ensure employees and the public that their gym, leisure centre or fitness class, is a safe place to work in and a safe place work out.

Gym and leisure centre operators are well positioned to capture real-time data effectively, based on membership details held within their databases, as well as recording details for all users, in line with relevant data protection requirements.

This allows for quick and relevant contact tracing when needed – helping to inform authorities, staff and users quickly if there is a positive case. 

Aggregated data published today (17 February) by ukactive represents more than 75 million visits across the UK, from the initial reopening of facilities in July 2020 to the end of December 2020, before the third national lockdown began in England at the start of January 2021.

ukactive collected aggregated data on a weekly basis from more than 2,000 facilities overall, and has been able to undertake week-on-week monitoring to record the prevalence of COVID-19 among people who have visited the sector’s facilities.

The results show that while the case rate for the UK’s general population rose consistently over the time period, the prevalence of the virus remained extremely low in the UK fitness and leisure sector.

Measured from the end of July to the end of December (25 July to 27 December), there were a total of 1,277 COVID-19 cases among gym users that visited facilities over the 23-week period, against a backdrop of 2.3 million UK-wide cases in the same time (recorded by the Government by date reported). 

The overall rate for the UK fitness and leisure sector across the whole period since the first reopening shows an overall rate of 1.7 cases per 100,000 visits. The case rate rose from 0.1 per 100,000 visits in the week commencing 27 July, reaching a high of 4.1 per 100,000 visits in the week commencing 26 October. The final full week of data collection ahead of England’s third national lockdown saw a rate of 2.1 per 100,000 visits, in the week commencing 21 December.

Using a methodology and framework distinct to the UK, the data collected by ukactive since facilities reopened from late-July has risen from 1,087 sites to a maximum of 2,042 in any one week, as momentum has grown and the power of building a sizeable sector-wide data set has been realised.

The sites represent a mixture of facility types, including gyms, leisure centres and boutiques, as well as different operating models, including private multi-site chains, public leisure trusts and independent operators and studios.

The UK data was included in the Europe Active THiNK Active study on COVID-19 prevalence across Europe, which was published in December, and accounted for nearly half of all the data gathered from facilities in Europe.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Our sector continues to set the benchmark for responsible safety measures and monitoring of COVID-19, demonstrated by our latest data which again shows a very low prevalence of the virus in our members’ facilities.

“Our nation’s gyms, pools and leisure facilities have never been more needed, as our communities try to recover mentally and physically from this terrible pandemic and the effects of lockdown.

“It is vital that our facilities are able to reopen as a priority in any phased approach, as they are desperately needed to support the physical and mental health of millions of people that rely on them to be active.

“The fitness and leisure sector remains confident in the Government-approved safety measures put in place, which will allow visitors to return with confidence, and we continue to work with each nation to support decisions for their reopening roadmaps using the very latest data and evidence from our sector.”

Data collection is currently on hold as all facilities across the UK remain closed. Once these reopen, ukactive will resume monitoring in order to continue to support the Government and sector in monitoring the safety of facilities.

To find out about contributing data to the ukactive Research Institute, email research@ukactive.org.uk

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