Coronavirus: England’s gyms and swimming pools to reopen from July 25th

Further easing of lockdown as Boots and John Lewis announce 5,000 job losses

 Boots said it would close 48 of its opticians shops and restructure its headquarters, shedding 4,000 jobs. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Boots said it would close 48 of its opticians shops and restructure its headquarters, shedding 4,000 jobs. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

 

Gyms, swimming pools, nail bars and tattooists will be allowed to reopen under the latest easing of the lockdown in England as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to fall. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said outdoor theatre and music performances would be allowed to return from next weekend.

“I’m really urging people to get out there and to play their part: buy the tickets for outdoor plays and musical recitals, get to your local gallery and support your local businesses,” he said.

Grassroots sport will return from this weekend, starting with cricket but indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities will have to wait until July 25th.

“The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool,” Mr Dowden said.

“Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.”

The latest announcement about easing the lockdown came after a day of grim news about the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Boots and John Lewis, two of Britain’s most established retail chains, announced 5,000 job losses and the closure of a number of shops.

Boots said it would close 48 of its opticians shops and restructure its headquarters, shedding 4,000 jobs. John Lewis will close eight of its 50 department stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.

John Lewis, which is owned by its employees, said coronavirus had made unviable some stores that were already challenged, as well as pushing online sales from 40 per cent of the firm’s total to 60 or 70 per cent.

“Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners. However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers, however and wherever they want to shop,” John Lewis chairwoman Sharon White said.

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a further £30 billion (€33.5bn) in subsidies for business this week, including schemes to reduce youth unemployment and to encourage firms to take back furloughed workers.

Mr Sunak said that, although the government would continue to borrow to fund the tens of billions of pounds in extra spending since the start of the crisis, the public finances would have to return to a sustainable footing in the medium term.

But Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, warned that reducing the debt would be slowed down by the fact that the economy would not be as big as it would have been if the pandemic had not happened.

“If that’s the case, and it’s very likely to be the case, revenues will still be depressed, and if we want to try then to bring the deficit back to where it would have been absent the crisis we will need to do some spending cuts, or given a decade of austerity, perhaps more likely some tax rises,” he said.