Ireland Active, the industry body for the leisure, health and fitness sector has today asked for special supports for businesses closed due to new restrictions in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly as part of new regional COVID-19 restrictions introduced by government.

Localised restrictions in the affected counties have meant the closure of over 50 leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools across the three counties and puts an estimated 1,000 people employed in the sector temporarily out of work.

The industry body are calling on government to consider the health and wellbeing of over 1 million people nationwide who rely on the leisure, health and fitness sector on keeping active, when imposing localised restrictions. Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools contribute to community health and physical activity which is vital to the continued fight against Covid-19.

Closures have caused enormous challenges for the leisure, health & fitness businesses in those affected counties who have worked so hard over the past months to get open safely and begin operations again. The disruption to business comes only 6 weeks since the industry had been given the green light to reopen after over 3 months of closure. The operational implications such as maintaining pool energy costs, staff costs and lost income, along with the impact on consumer confidence are just some of the difficulties now faced by the sector.

It is noted that other businesses have been allowed to continue to operate which were also in Phase 3, and Ireland Active are seeking clarity from government as to the rationale for closing safe and controlled indoor environments. Operators have been working to government protocols on restricted numbers (less than 50), hygiene measures, booking systems for contact tracing and social distancing, which should allow facilities to remain open given their contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

Ireland Active Board Director and Kildare leisure facility operator Susan Grady, CEO, K-Leisure said in response to the closures:

“It is extremely difficult to take on board the restrictions that have been reintroduced in Kildare, Laois and Offaly when businesses like ours have worked so hard to ensure a safe reopening. Whilst the health and safety of the public must always be the number one priority, undoubtedly restrictions will have a significant impact on the morale of business owners, staff and the public in these counties. The Government must take action now to provide support for those sectors that are affected by these local closures and provide clarity around the rationale for closing a sector that contributes enormously to the health and wellbeing of the public.”

Ireland Active have asked government that clarity be given for any future localised restrictions, and that the health & fitness sector be allowed to continue safe operations and provide vital services in providing for the health & wellness of over 1 million people being active each week.

Our member facilities have undertaken extensive staff training and expenditure to ensure facilities are safe for the public to visit upon re-opening and it is essential that facilities remain open to support the health and wellbeing of the population in the fight against COVID-19.