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Gyms and coronavirus: What are the facts?

For the second time this year, gyms in parts of England have shut their doors.

It’s not nationwide this time – only places on the “very high” tier of England’s new alert system have turned off the treadmills.

But what’s the science behind shutting gyms? Are they riskier places to be in a pandemic than shops and restaurants?

And how does closing them down fit with the government telling us to stay fit and look after our mental health as coronavirus cases increase?

One gym owner in Merseyside was fined £1,000 after he posted on social media that his gym would stay open “not for financial gain but more for our members’ mental and physical well-being.”

And gym users have been telling Newsbeat they’re “baffled” by the move to close gyms while other places stay open.

What does the science tell us?

Prof Jonathan Ball is an expert in viruses from the University of Nottingham.

“You do tend to exercise quite vigorously, that means that you can breathe rapidly and quite deeply,” he tells Newsbeat.

“Therefore, we would expect that you could potentially produce droplets or aerosols that could go on to infect other people.”

He also points out there are lots of areas of gyms that people touch, like handles and equipment, before touching their faces.

There is a but though.

Prof Ball says a lot of that risk can be dramatically lowered through things like effective air-conditioning, regular cleaning, social distancing and hand sanitising.

“From the data that I’ve seen from Public Health England, I’m not aware that there is a significant hotspot for infections in the gym environment.

“So if gyms do come under extra scrutiny, I think it’s important for the government and for scientists to explain the data that’s led to these things getting more restrictions.”

He adds: “I think the government and local authorities are going to look at places that they can try and target to reduce the spread, but balance that against the economic impact.

“So we’ll start to see what what, on the face of it, some might see as unfair restrictions on some activities, but other things like visits to the pub, for example, will be allowed to continue.

“There are going to be certain areas, certain activities that might be targeted, simply because there’s they’re not particularly increased risks over some activities.

“But the economic impacts are maybe seen as being less less damaging. But you know, that’s the political decision, and it’s one that might mystify many of us.” (BBC).

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