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Ministers signal gyms could reopen in days with announcement ‘imminent’

By Richard Wheeler and Sophie Morris, PA Political Staff

Ministers hope gyms will reopen within days amid growing pressure from MPs for action.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he wants to make an announcement “imminently” on the sector’s reopening, with mid-July still the target date.

He said gyms have “engaged very constructively” with the Government to “overcome some of the hurdles”.

Mr Dowden told the Commons: “I hope to be able to make an announcement imminently in relation to that.

“As I’ve said previously, the aim has always been to get gyms back by mid-July.”

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg also said the aim is for the reopening of beauty salons to follow “as soon as possible”.

Responding to a request from Tory Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) for more information about when beauty salons can resume work, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Our hope is to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in mid-July.

“Other close-contact services, tattoo and nail parlours, will follow as soon as possible.

“The Government has been clear that it wants to reopen the economy carefully and gradually and this is why some businesses which involve less sustained contact between people have opened before others.”

Mr Rees-Mogg also recalled his gym experiences in response to Tory Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne).

He said: “I can’t claim to be a native gym-goer personally.

“I did have to go occasionally in my childhood and never quite recovered from the experience, but many people up and down the country will be very keen to get back to sports centres, gymnasiums, and swimming pools to get themselves into peak physical performance.

“And they can then compensate by eating out to get back the calories that they’ve just worn off when they have been in the gymnasium.”

Mr Rees-Mogg also claimed the Government has done “everything it can” to support care homes following criticism from Labour.

He told business questions: “I think the work done by people in care homes has been quite remarkable under the most difficult of circumstances, and the Government has done everything it can to support them.

“This has partly been through the funds sent to local authorities, the £600 million infection fund to ensure the money is there to help care homes, the overhaul of the way PPE is delivered to ensure that is available to people in care homes, and to ensure the workforce is expanded through a new recruitment campaign so people are there to help where they are needed.

“But I share her view that the work done in care homes is of fundamental importance but I would dispute her conclusion that they have been forgotten.

“They have not been forgotten and they’re very much valued.”

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