When could gyms reopen?
The Government has not yet published its lockdown exit strategy. Boris Johnsonhas said he will set out the strategy for the “gradual and phased” easing of lockdown in the week beginning 22 February.
In an address to MPs on Wednesday 27 January, the Prime Minister indicated that lockdown measures will remain in place until at least Monday 8 March.
This means it is safe to assume that gyms will not reopen until at least 8 March, but likely later.
The date is based on progress in vaccinating the most vulnerable groups in society by mid-February and then giving the jab time to take effect.
How did gyms work under the tier system?
The Government has indicated that England will re-enter a tiered system of restrictions when nationwide measures ease.
Speaking about easing out of lockdown, Dominic Raab told the BBC: “I think it is fair to say it won’t be a big bang, if you like, it will be done phased, possibly back through the tiered approach that we had before.”
Gyms were allowed to stay open in all tiers under the three-tier system that was in place in December.
However, they were closed in tier four areas when the additional level was brought in later in the month.
When gyms reopen they will once again have to follow strict rules, such as reduced class sizes and one-way systems.
Last week we published an article The Climbing Bug – Indoor Walls and Coronavirus which had advice and information about how to deal with the current coronavirus pandemic. The thread accompanying the piece had a lengthy contribution from Levi Yant, who raised some serious concerns about it in the context of this fast-moving situation.
We contacted a few climbing wall owners to see what their thoughts were. They described measures they were taking to reduce the dangers and also other more drastic steps they might make, such as limiting user numbers, but all also agreed that the situation may soon be taken out of their control. We also contacted Dave Turnbull of the BMC and he said they were leaving it to the individual walls to decide for themselves. The Climbing Academy announced today that all of their centres will close from tomorrow (17 March).
Today – Monday (16 March) – the press conference by the prime minister has advised people to avoid public gathering places like pubs, restaurants, and cafes. No specific mention of leisure facilities was made. Numerous climbing walls across the globe – and some crags in Spain – have closed over the past week, either due to government orders or out of a personal desire to contain and minimise the spread of Covid-19.
Levi Yant has sent us a new piece which is up to date as of Monday 16th. Although much of our previous article remains relevant, the situation has moved on.
This is an opinion piece and we feel that it is up to everyone to make their own decisions in this extremely worrying time.
Following recent advice from the UK government and health officials that the public should be practising social distancing, the continued use of climbing walls as a leisure facility is increasingly putting lives at risk, argues Levi Yant, M.Sc. (Virology), PhD (Genetics) Associate Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Should you go to the wall if you’re healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic? NOT A CHANCE.
This is going to hurt. But listen. And I’m not happy about it: I’m a devoted climber and supporter of climbing businesses and organisations. I’m also a professor with a postgraduate degree in virology and I spent over a decade working and publishing in the field of viral epidemiology and vaccine development. From this perspective, the answer is deadly clear: you are putting lives at risk if you climb at the wall at this point in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sounds alarmist, right? Well, it’s time to ring the alarm, and ring it loud.
The situation has been fast-moving, so it’s fair that public awareness is only catching up. But epidemiologists have been raising alarms for weeks. And related to climbing, there’s new evidence that Covid-19 virus particles are infective for days on plastic surfaces from the US National Institutes of Health and Princeton University. This study also shows that infective Covid-19 virus can passed in aerosols (i.e., by a cough/sneeze/power scream). So, forget about unclean holds; this work shows that airborne transmission is likely. Hence the all the facemasks in countries that this has already hit. To the broader scientific community, current UK government advice of washing your hands and not touching your face is not sufficient. The outcome is the stuff of horror stories, and cases are increasing steadily (doubling in number every 3-4 days). Slow action by any particular government does not excuse lack of personal responsibility in the face of a medical crisis unprecedented in our lifetimes.
Sure, we can make our own decisions regarding our personal health, but we damn well better think of our families and the public, too. Climbers are generally healthy and are therefore perfect carriers of this highly contagious and deadly disease. So, no, this one isn’t even about us. It’s relatively healthy carriers – because they remain active and mobile – who pose the greatest danger to others, by spreading viruses like Covid-19. This danger is magnified in Covid-19 because the virus is so transmissible both early on, before symptoms, as well as following any (even minor) symptoms.
Tragically, if you don’t see it now, it will become clearer – and soon. In fact, a week ago I wasn’t alarmed, despite my longstanding interest in viral epidemiology. I would have said, yeah, of course, go the wall. But the spread of Covid-19 has progressed exponentially (doubling in number every 3-4 days, with each doubling bigger than the previous) since then. And exponential growth is not something we evolved to understand. Like distances between stars, exponential growth doesn’t hit the limbic system like the vision of a lion running right at you. But that’s what Covid-19 is doing, right now. This has been conveniently previewed for the UK in Italy, where Covid-19 hit a couple weeks earlier. Right now, the UK Covid-19 increase in case rates are increasing at the same rate, but only two weeks behind Italy’s. Italy has instituted much stronger restrictions than the UK government is (yet) instituting, and they are still experiencing rises in cases, which means many unnecessary deaths. Without dramatic action (total shutdown), all estimates are that it will be worse here.
And yes, you should be scared: A brand new modelling study by a leading group at Harvard shows that even using the most conservative assumptions, the current 4,100 ICU beds in the UK will *not come remotely close* to accommodating the upcoming sick and dying here. Worse, ¾ of those beds are occupied with ICU cases now. It’s highly doubtful that the UK can ramp up ventilator production fast enough, and even if it does, do you want to contribute negatively to this? Just to pull on some plastic? Climb outside, for God’s sake! Or anywhere there are fewer people around to reduce the likelihood of virus transmission. We need to slow this thing down! I know this isn’t convenient, or even doable for some of us, but given the consequences it’s way more responsible to take a step back from anywhere the virus is more likely to be.
So what can you do? Reduce exposure to crowds now, as well as you can. Climb outside. Go somewhere beautiful and remote. Whatever you do, flatten the curve of new infections, and for those of us who find it difficult or impossible to isolate due to work or family obligations, check out this cool description of how every little bit of social reduction helps. I implore you all, if you don’t believe me, to put off your wall visit by a few days and it will be increasingly clear that it’s the right thing to do by the spread of this pandemic. By all reasonable projections Covid-19 will kill many, many more people in the UK if unchecked, including people you know and love – as well as members of your local wall. I don’t want to have to tell you this, but I must. Take care of yourself, your loved ones and our society: don’t congregate in climbing walls, or anywhere. Do you part to help slow the peak of infections down.
Best wishes, everyone, and take care.
Levi Yant, M.Sc. (Virology), PhD (Genetics)
Associate Professor of Evolutionary Genomics
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
University of Nottingham
There is a huge event going to happen 15th February in HANGAR! The elite European climbers are coming to compare their ONSIGHT climbing skills with each other! We are looking forward to welcome Adam Ondra, Jan Hojer, Alberto Gines Lopez, Rishat Khaibullin, Gregor Vezonik, Lučka Rakovec, Mia Krampl, Katja Kadić, Julia Kruder! However, not only them! We will also cheer up for Czech and Slovak top-climbers such as Martin Stráník, Jakub Konečný, Vojtěch Trojan, Eliška Adamovská, Vanda Michalkova, and Michaela Smetanová!
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