ukactive report reveals largest national COVID-19 safety data set

The UK fitness and leisure sector has reported the most comprehensive national COVID- 19 safety figures for the industry in Europe, in a new report published by ukactive today (5 April).

The release of the report follows a meeting on Thursday (31 March) when ukactive joined representatives from the arts, sports, heritage and leisure sectors to support the upcoming UK COVID-19 public inquiry.

The new summary report, titled ‘Safe and Essential’, shows extremely low rates of COVID-19 among people using fitness and leisure facilities throughout the different phases of the pandemic, using data aggregated from thousands of ukactive members across the UK.

Total figures from the ukactive Research Institute show 241,154,977 visits to facilities from 25 July 2020 to 27 February 2022, but just 2,605 reported cases of COVID-19 among visitors, meaning an overall rate of 1.08 cases per 100,000 visits.

The case rate is based on a user making one visit to a facility while infected with COVID- 19 (with facilities including a mixture of gyms, leisure centres and boutiques, and different operating models, including private multi-site chains, public leisure trusts and independent operators and studios).

The figures tell the story of the sector’s safety reporting throughout the whole of the pandemic to date.

By combining stringent safety measures with weekly data, the sector was able to reopen at the earliest possible phase in the Government’s roadmap last year, with facilities opening on 12 April 2021, ahead of other sectors.

Gym and leisure centre operators were well positioned to capture real-time data effectively, based on membership details held within their databases, as well as recording details for all users, in line with relevant data protection requirements. This allowed quick and relevant contact tracing if there is a case reported by someone who has visited a facility and then gone on to test positive.

The data provided by the sector was used in comparison to rates among the general population to show the relative safety of facilities to the Government and its advisors. It was instrumental in the public campaign delivered by ukactive and members throughout the pandemic, urging the Government to allow facilities to remain open for as long as possible in order to play their essential role in supporting the nation’s health and resilience.

A full timeline within the report reflects five phases of the pandemic in total, with the sector lobbying for financial support at each stage of closure and restrictions.

The data formed part of a four-stage strategy by ukactive which also included the development of an industry-wide safety framework for operators to reduce the spread of the virus; business modelling to demonstrate the potential for financial difficulties, reduced services and closures; and policy support for members.

ukactive will continue to work closely with the Government to monitor population level case rates, ensuring a clear and efficient process remains in place to re-open its safety data reporting mechanism if and when required.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “This report shows the power of our sector when it unites, to drive public health outcomes, to improve standards and to lobby collectively for a fitter, stronger nation.

“The UK has set the benchmark for COVID-19 reporting, thanks to the largest sector safety data monitoring operation in Europe, allowing us to analyse more than 240 million visit data points and shine a light publicly and politically on a sector that is both safe and essential.

“The past two years have been incredibly challenging for our members and I want to thank them for their unity, collective evidence and support behind our cause.

“We want to take these lessons forward, to further enhance our information sharing and collaboration to support, protect and inform the sector so that together we can achieve our shared ambition for growth.”

To read ukactive’s report, click here.

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