Gyms allowed to reopen in Merseyside after tier 3 Covid row

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent
·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP</span>
Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

Gyms will be allowed to reopen in Merseyside after the UK government failed to provide evidence that they should close under the top-tier strict coronavirus restrictions imposed only a week ago.

Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, has strongly criticised ministers for ordering the closure of gyms and leisure centres in Merseyside while allowing them to remain open in the other tier 3 areas Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Rotheram announced on Wednesday morning that gyms would be allowed to reopen in the region.

He said the government agreed on Tuesday night that it would rescind its original decision. He told BBC Radio Merseyside: “It’s a very, very difficult period for us all. We’ve been trying to work with the government to understand why this particular suite of restrictions would be the right ones for us and also to get the support package.”

The move represents a humiliating climbdown from Boris Johnson’s government only seven days after the Liverpool city region became the first place in England to enter tier 3 restrictions.

Tier one – medium

  • The “rule of six” applies, meaning socialising in groups larger than six people is prohibited whether indoors or outdoors.

  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work and are not counted as being part of the six-person limit.

  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.

  • Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered by phone or online.

  • Schools and universities remain open.

  • Places of worship remain open but people must not mingle in a group of more than six.

  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people who can attend (15 and 30 respectively).

  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, and – if the rule of six is followed – indoors.

Tier two – high

  • People are prohibited from socialising with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.

  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work.

  • The rule of six continues to apply for socialising outdoors, for instance in a garden or public space like a park or beach.

  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.

  • Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered online or by phone.

  • Schools and universities remain open.

  • Places of worship remain open but people must not mingle in a group of more than six.

  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people who can attend (15 and 30 respectively).

  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with those they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport.

  • Travel is permitted to amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but people are advised to reduce the number of journeys where possible.

Tier three – very high

  • People are prohibited from socialising with anybody they do not live with, or have not formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting, private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events.

  • Tradespeople can continue to go into a household for work.

  • The rule of six continues to apply to outdoor public spaces, such as parks, beaches, public gardens or sports venues.

  • Pubs and bars are only permitted to remain open to operate as restaurants, in which case alcohol can only be served as part of a substantial meal.

  • Schools and universities remain open.

  • Places of worship remain open but household mixing is not permitted.

  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of people attending (15 and 30 respectively) but wedding receptions are not allowed.

  • The rules for exercise classes and organised sport are the same as in tier 2. They can continue to take place outdoors but will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport. However, in Merseyside, gyms were ordered to close when it entered tier 3.

  • Travelling outside a very high alert level area or entering a very high alert level area should be avoided other than for things such as work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if travelling through as part of a longer journey.

  • Residents of a tier 3 area should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, while people who live in a tier 1 or tier 2 area should avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area.

The three-tier lockdown system was designed to simplify the imposition of Covid restrictions across the country but within days it had been beset with difficulties, including a damaging public row with Greater Manchester leaders.

Earlier this week, Rotheram and the region’s six council leaders demanded an urgent review of the closure of gyms after they were allowed to stay open in Lancashire, which struck a tier 3 deal on Friday.

Rotheram said he had been in discussions with Downing Street “late into the night” and that officials agreed that gyms could reopen safely in Merseyside.

He said: “The government have agreed with the case that I put forward on behalf of the city region leaders and that they would now bring us in line with other tier 3 areas, similar to Lancashire and Greater Manchester when they have their orders placed. This would mean that soft play areas will be closed but gyms could reopen.

“I think that will provide consistency of approach, which is what we asked for, and take away the confusion of people in our area that things were being imposed here but not elsewhere.”