Catherine urges Government to “Build Back Fitter after COVID-19” and keep gyms open

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell has urged the Government to ‘Build Back Fitter’ after COVID-19 and to protect gyms and sports in any future lockdown and from the financial impact of Covid-19.

Catherine who is Chair of influential House of Commons Petitions Committee led a debate in Westminster Hall on Monday 23rd November relating to COVID-19 restrictions on gyms and sport. The debate was triggered after two petitions reached almost 1 million signatures.

The power of the petitions paid off with the Prime Minister announcing just before the start of the debate that gyms and outdoor sports will be able to get going again once national restrictions in England are lifted on December 2nd.

However, with the science suggesting that further restrictions may be needed to counterbalance any relaxation at Christmas, Catherine sought reassurance that the impact on physical health will be fully considered in any future restrictions.

The Newcastle MP also called on the Government to clarify its strategy and set out a clear financial package to the sector to ensure sports clubs and facilities across the country get through to the other side of the pandemic.

Speaking in the debate Catherine said: 

“I had hoped that the Minister would be much clearer that any of the relaxations announced today will not mean that the very sports that are delighted about finally being able to reopen may have to close down again in January.

“That is just unthinkable, to be perfectly honest.

“I really hope that the Minister will take that away and that, once the Government have been able to iron out all the detail on the relaxations being announced, they will give greater clarity, certainty and reassurance to those sports clubs that they will not be open just a matter of weeks, until another spike after Christmas.

“That spike could come as a result of the relaxations, but also because of the inability to track and trace the virus properly through a system that truly works.”

Commenting after the debate, Catherine said:

“People have faced huge pressures throughout this crisis and physical exercise is one of the best tools we have to stay healthy and resilient to deal with the virus.

“But without a renewed effort to get people fit and active, we are storing up even bigger public health problems for the future.

“After a difficult year, we have an opportunity now to build back fitter from this pandemic. To make a collective new year’s resolution to get fit and active and support local sports clubs, gyms, and fitness facilities.

“I urge the Government to take the health and mental wellbeing of our country seriously and make building back fitter a national priority by supporting local sports clubs, gyms and fitness facilities to ensure sport is accessible and available to all post COVID-19”

Watch Catherine’s full speech in the debate here.