Outdoor swimming pools in England are to begin reopening from Saturday, with indoor pools, gyms and other sports facilities to follow on July 25, the Government has announced.
In the latest easing of lockdown restrictions, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has also published guidance to enable competitive grassroots team sports to resume, beginning with cricket this weekend.
Outdoor arts performances – including theatres, opera, dance and music – will also be able to resume from the weekend although audience numbers will be restricted and will be subject to social distancing rules.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said a change in planning rules will also mean theatres, concert halls and live music venues will be protected from demolition or change of use by developers, stopping those that have been made temporarily vacant during lockdown disappearing altogether.
Mr Dowden said in a statement: “Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times.
“We are also giving further clarity on restart dates in our roadmap back to performance. From July 11 we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots.”
While other places, such as pubs and restaurants, had been allowed to reopen, the Government had not previously found a way to do the same for gyms and swimming pools.
Earlier he told MPs he wanted to make an announcement “imminently” on the reopening of gyms, with mid-July still the target date.