Outdoor sports ‘can return from March 29’ but wait goes on for indoor activities

PA Sport Staff

Outdoor sports will return from March 29, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to outline his road map for the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the House of Commons at 3.30pm on Monday.

Outdoor activities are set to be opened earlier than indoor ones, due to the reduced risk of spreading coronavirus outside.

This means venues like tennis and basketball courts could reopen while organised adult and children’s sport – including grassroots football – can also return from March 29.

But indoor sites such as gyms and swimming pools face a longer wait to reopen.

“The simple way to look at this is that outdoor is safer and therefore we prioritise versus indoor,” Zahawi told LBC.

“Outdoor sports – tennis, golf, outdoor organised team sports, grassroots football – will go back on March 29.”

Pushed on when gyms and fitness centres could reopen, he added: “At the moment, it’s outdoors versus indoors. Outdoors is the priority because it’s where the transmission rates are much, much, much lower.”

Former professional footballer turned pundit, Robbie Savage, who has been highly vocal on the importance of children’s outdoor sport resuming, criticised the delay to the end of March.

In a series of messages directed towards Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Savage said: “@OliverDowden @MattHancock @HuddlestonNigel,, 29th March ,,, another 5 weeks , you stated Oliver 1st out of lockdown for grassroots sports ? So youngsters mixing indoors in schools then 3 weeks LATER allowed to play sport OUTSIDE , ridiculous.

“8th March schools reopen, youngsters mixing on school buses, in classrooms, at break, after school, going home to families , would have been indoor most of day ,,, but are only allowed to resume grassroots sports OUTDOORS – wait for it – 3 weeks later.”

After-school sports are set to be reintroduced at the same time as schools reopen, on March 8.

Basketball courts could be among the outdoor sports facilities able to reopen from the end of next month
Basketball courts could be among the outdoor sports facilities able to reopen from the end of next month (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Each new easing will be conditional on a series of tests being met, such as the continued success of the vaccine rollout, vaccine efficacy in terms of its impact on hospital admission and fatality rates, new variants and infection rates.

The road map is expected to include information on when crowds could return to sports venues in England, with spectators having been barred since the scrapping of the tier system.

Restrictions will be relaxed step-by-step across the whole of England at the same time, Downing Street confirmed, due to the current uniform spread of the virus, rather than on a regional basis.

The third national lockdown began on January 4.

UK Active, the not-for-profit body which represents the physical activity and fitness sector, released data from a Savanta ComRes poll on Monday which said 42 per cent of people were now sitting for at least 14 hours a week longer in lockdown.

More than a third – 36 per cent – reported being bored of their exercise options.

UK Active chief executive Huw Edwards said: “The Government needs to prioritise the reopening of our sector’s facilities when lockdown restrictions begin to ease, so they can return to their essential role in supporting our physical and mental health.”

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