£10,000 Lockdown Fine Case Collapses – “Hundreds” More to Follow, Says Lawyer

Hundreds of restaurants and gyms hit with lockdown fines could see their fixed penalties revoked in the courts, a leading lawyer has suggested. MailOnline has more.

Twenty-three such cases have already collapsed so far, with more than 800 more having “strong cases” for potential appeals, solicitor advocate Lucinda Nicholls, of Nicholls & Nicholls explained.

Ms. Nicholls said gyms were particularly susceptible to fines due to confusing official guidelines – including regulations that said those with a BMI higher than 40 were “entitled to go to a gym for exercise”.

“Therefore gyms were allowed to be open for that category of customer,” she told the Times. 

Now legal experts across the country have accused official bodies of showing ignorance for the exceptions to lockdown restrictions that saw businesses wrongly hit with financial penalties.

The developments come after a gym owner who faced a £10,000 fine for keeping his gym open during the second lockdown saw the “flimsy” and “inept” case against him dropped.

Alex Lowndes, who owns Gainz Fitness and Strength in Bedford and St Neots in Cambridgeshire, refused to close his gym in November 2020 after COVID-19 restrictions were imposed. Mr Lowndes’ establishment was subsequently raided by police and he was charged with a breach of lockdown regulations, which he denied.

The businessman failed to pay the fixed penalty notice and was due to stand trial last March, however his case, defended by Ms. Nicholls, collapsed after the authority failed to gather sufficient evidence to prosecute.

Bedford Borough Council said the case was in the “public interest”, they enforced the rules at the time and that there was “ample evidence for a successful prosecution”. 

The CPS has said each lockdown fine would be considered on its individual merits. 

Mr Lowndes told the BBC: “They [the council] should have looked at it even six months in and gone ‘this is a waste of time’. But they kept going and they kept going, they brought in an external barrister, they kept spending money, and it just got out of control.”

He added: “[Contesting the case] was based on principle. We should never have shut in the first place and we stand by what we did at the time.”

Worth reading in full.

Italians to Require Covid “Green Passes” to Get Into Restaurants, Gyms and Theatres

Italy is set to join the growing list of countries preventing their unvaccinated citizens from living their lives as normal ‘after’ lockdown.

From next month, Italians will need a Covid ‘Green Pass’ showing proof of vaccination against the virus or negative tests to be allowed into restaurants, gyms, museums, movie theatres and more so as to assure those who are vaccinated that “they won’t be next to contagious people”. The MailOnline has the story.

Premier Mario Draghi’s Government approved a decree on Thursday ordering the use of the so-called Green Passes starting on August 6th. 

To be eligible for a pass, individuals must prove they have received at least one vaccine dose in the last nine months, recovered from Covid in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours.

The passes will be needed to dine at tables inside restaurants or cafes, to attend sports events, town fairs and conferences, and to enter casinos, bingo parlours and pools, among other activities. according to officials.

The certification is needed to “to keep economic activity open” and will allow people to enjoy entertainment “with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people”, Draghi said.

“The Italian economy is going well. It’s reviving, and Italy is growing at a rhythm superior to that of other EU nations,” the Premier told reporters.

Some 40 million people in Italy have already downloaded a Green Pass, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. 

He noted that the certification is already required to attend wedding receptions and to visit residents of care homes.

However, some have protested against the use of the Green Pass, with people taking to the streets of Turin on Thursday night to protest its use. …

So far, 45.8% of people in Italy have been fully vaccinated. In comparison, 53.9% of people in the U.K. have received two jabs, as have 53.6% of people in Spain, 47.6% of people in Germany and 43.5% in France.

Worth reading in full.

Fitness Chain “Burned About £500,000 per Day” After Losing 12% Of Members Through Lockdown

Fitness chain PureGym suffered pre-tax losses of almost £215 million last year after the forced closure of its sites due to Government-imposed lockdowns. Large parts of the fitness industry fought to remain open during lockdowns with some gyms risking £10,000 fines by refusing to close their doors to customers. Before the second national lockdown, one gym owner said: “We should be doing everything we can to get people healthier and fitter,” adding that “gyms save the NHS”. But venues were forced to close, costing PureGym alone about £500,000 a day. The Mail has the story.

The Leeds-based company registered a massive 40% plunge in revenue during 2020 as gyms were shut for 44% of the year’s trading days. In pre-pandemic 2019, it recorded losses of around £40 million. 

Despite trying to strike a note of optimism after gyms in England reopened on April 12th, Chief Executive Humphrey Cobbold called the company’s trading performance “frankly awful” and “out of hands”. The financial statement exceeds his stated fears of a £120 million loss caused by shutdowns. 

PureGym reported seeing more than a million workouts completed across its 240 gyms in the first week of the roadmap as people try to shed unwanted pounds after being trapped inside for three months.

But in a statement released today, Mr Cobbold called 2020 “a very tough year” and blamed restrictions for “preventing us from trading” and causing “a severe impact on our financial performance”. He previously told the BBC that PureGym was “burning about £500,000 a day” due to “brutal” lockdowns. 

“We had to run a business with zero income for extended periods, a previously unthinkable scenario,” Mr Cobbold admitted today. “We had to make major operational changes in the tightest of time frames and alter our proposition in weeks that would have taken years in normal times.” …

PureGym is one of the biggest losers of the pandemic, with Covid restrictions hammering leisure, hospitality and travel industries hardest. 

Trade organisation ukactive has highlighted the impact of lockdowns on the nation’s health and the fitness industry in particular.

Polling by ukactive and ComRes suggested 42% of UK adults were sitting for at least 14 hours longer per week during lockdown.

A survey by ukactive of its members showed approximately 400 facilities had already been lost during the crisis, while lockdown had resulted in £90 million in lost membership fees each week.

January is normally a key period for new joiners and renewals and usually sees 30% growth.  

Worth reading in full.