Boris Johnson’s anti-obesity drive has been dealt an early blow after it emerged that four in five swimming pools have stayed shut for financial reasons.
The Prime Minister will launch his Better Health campaign via a video on social media on Monday, urging those who are overweight to revise their diet and take more exercise.
But most public swimming pools remain shut – despite being given the go-ahead by the Government to reopen – because social distancing rules makes it impossible for them to break even.
Gyms, pools and leisure centres were allowed to open on Saturday after being closed for months because of the coronavirus crisis, and will be a key part of the Government’s drive to get the country fit to help it fight off any resurgence of Covid-19.
The campaign group Swim England said four in five pools remain shut because opening them is “just not affordable”.
It warned that they faced hefty bills to reheat pools and get facilities into the right condition for use, something that was uneconomical if they were going to have limited numbers of paying customers.
Jane Nickerson, the chief executive of Swim England, said 30 per cent of public pools could remain closed until next year, which she described as “unacceptable”.
She said more Government subsidies were needed to enable pools to open until they could return to normal operations, otherwise swimming risked becoming “leisure’s forgotten activity”.
Government rules say pools must allow three square metres per swimmer and suggest double-width lanes, the closure of sauna and steam rooms and one-way systems both in and out of the water.
In England, only 330 public pools out of 1,657 have so far reopened. Gyms have opened in greater numbers, having spent months preparing for social distancing during lockdown.
David Lloyd sports centres has opened 87 of its 89 clubs, while Pure Gym has opened 214 of 230 sites.