The UK government must offer greater clarity on how it plans to support the health and fitness industry when it comes to re-engaging people with exercise – especially in city and town centres – according to UK Active CEO, Huw Edwards.
“The government cannot ignore the impact health inequalities have had on the level of hospitalisations and fatalities throughout the pandemic – a point made clearly by Sir Patrick Vallance during the announcement of the government's new Living with COVID-19 strategy on 21 February,“ said Edwards.
“Levelling up the physical and mental health of the nation should be front and centre of the Living with COVID-19 strategy, but it isn’t.
"It's important the government provides greater detail about how it plans to approach restoring our nation’s health.
“Many health clubs, pools, and leisure centres face continued difficulties caused by both loss of consumer confidence and footfall from the COVID-19 crisis, most recently impacted by the Omicron variant and the Government’s Plan B restrictions which saw people directed to work from home during December 2021 and January 2022.
“The Government must make clear what precise interventions it will undertake to encourage footfall back into city centres, which is vital for city-based fitness and leisure facilities, especially given the omission of bespoke financial support for the sector as part of the Plan B measures," said Edwards.
“Furthermore, we're deeply concerned by the lack of detail on public health interventions for our communities, aside from further vaccines, which will be essential to improving resilience as we face ongoing crises in both physical and mental health.
“Pharmaceutical interventions must be married with a major public health drive, putting physical health at the heart of our recovery.
“This should include the Government – and specifically the Department of Health and Social Care, its agency the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, and the DCMS – working with leaders in the sport and physical activity sector on plans that can build our national resilience ahead of next winter and any potential new variants, so that we meet the next challenge as a fitter, stronger nation.”