“We are not staying open for financial gain but more for our members’ mental and physical well-being,” says Chris Ellerby-Hemmings, the co-owner of EmpoweredFit gym in the Wirral.
“The reason for doing it is to be listened to.”
The gym, which has 14,000 members, is one of dozens in Merseyside that have remained open despite new lockdown rules ordering them to shut.
Some medical experts say gyms could encourage the virus to spread, as they are humid and confined spaces with shared equipment.
But Mr Ellerby-Hemmings told the BBC his gym was Covid secure. “I want to ask the government or local government to show us the evidence as to why we should be closed.”
The Liverpool City Region is the only area to be under the toughest Tier Three Covid-19 restrictions which came into effect at midnight, making it illegal for gyms in the area to open.
Any venue mandated to close that remains open faces fines of up to £10,000 for repeated offences.
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Mr Ellerby-Hemmings is acting as spokesperson for the outlets defying the order to close. He says “gyms are not a major spreader of Covid” and there have not been any cases of Covid in the gyms that have remained open, either before or after the previous lockdown.
He also points to research by the gyms’ trade body UK Active which found that for 22 million visits across England between 25 July and 13 September only 78 cases have been reported.
image captionEmpoweredFit is pushing its message on Instagram
Independent gyms like EmpoweredFit are not alone in condemning the closure of fitness facilities in and around Liverpool
National chain PureGym says it is “extremely disappointed” to have to close its seven gyms in the Liverpool area, and is even considering legal action to reverse the rules.
It says since reopening after the previous lockdown there had been more than 300,000 visits to these gyms by about 31.000 members and they had only been notified about 11 members and staff who tested positive for Covid-19,
It is calling on the mayors and leaders in the region and national government to “seriously reconsider their decision”.
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“If they fail to do so they will have to face and live with the consequences of a less healthy population and associated poorer health outcomes including a weaker immune system,” PureGym’s boss Humphrey Cobbold said in a statement.
“We will consider any and every course of action that can be taken to support our industry and members including recourse to legal processes if that is what it takes,” he added.
‘The evidence stacks up’
Huw Edwards is chief executive of UK Active which is calling for the decision to close gyms in Liverpool to be reversed.
He told the BBC the organisation fully supported the “direction of travel PureGym and other operators are looking at”.
He too said the decision to close gyms should be based on evidence.
“All the evidence stacks up that the sector is safe.”