Golf courses in England will be able to reopen on December 2. Speaking virtually to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that outdoor sports can resume when the second shutdown comes to an end, as he set out a three-tiered system of restrictions.
He said: “I can…confirm the national restrictions in England will end on the 2nd December and they will not be renewed.
“From next Wednesday, people will be able to leave their home for any purpose and meet others in outdoor public spaces, subject to the rule of six. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume, and shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector can reopen.”
Asked the question directly in the Commons by West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, while giving a Covid-19 update statement, said: “Golf is back.”
And addressing some confusion on social media as to whether courses could resume on December 2 or 3, Craig Tracey, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, confirmed they could open their doors on that Wednesday.
The Group later welcomed Johnson’s announcement and said it paved the way, within the rule of six, to allowing fourball play without restriction on the number of households.
They said coaching, fitting and ranges would also be allowed to open, as would indoor hospitality facilities in tiers one and two. The group added that details were being reviewed by industry bodies.
Tracey said: “I am sure all involved in golf in England welcome the sport’s return and the industry has yet again pulled together to form a coherent message to Government articulating why it was safe to do so.
“As was seen both before and during this lockdown, golf is a sport that can be played safely and the industry adapted quickly to manage the restrictions imposed previously.
“Golf now has operational experience and established COVID secure practices, including rule changes and other mitigation measures that meet the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ directive.
“It is therefore ideally placed to welcome people back when lockdown ends in all the home nations.”
He added: “Combining the undeniable benefits that golf offers to a significant proportion of the country, and the steps taken that ensure golf is a sport that can be played safely, the golf industry looks forward to welcoming players back and is confident it can meet future restrictions.”
In his earlier statement, Johnson outlined the strengthened tier system and expected to announce which regions would be in which tier by Thursday.
The Government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan also confirms that outdoor sport can resume “subject to social distancing”.
Summarising the restrictions for each tier regarding exercise, it says:
- Tier 1 (Medium Alert): Classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but must follow the rule of six indoors.
- Tier 2 (High Alert): Classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but cannot take place indoors if there is any interaction between people from different households.
- Tier 3 (Very High Alert): Classes and organised adult sport can take place outdoors, but people should avoid higher-risk contact activity. Group exercise activities and sports indoors should not take place, unless with household or bubble.
The decision to allow golf to resume came as Parliament debated the petition which gained more than 250,000 signatures in just over 24 hours and which asked for golf to be exempt from venues required to close during lockdown.
Responding for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, was asked if there was any evidence of the impact that opening clubs and gyms had on Covid transmission.
“The point is the possibility of there being a risk,” he said. “As the chief medical officers and others have articulated, there is always a risk with any – any – potential social interaction. We saw death rates go from a dozen a day in August to dozens a day and, in fact, now over 500. That’s the evidence. That’s why we had to take significant action.
“I’ve always said, though, that as soon as it’s possible to start lifting restrictions, grassroots sport will be among the first to return and that has been confirmed by the Prime Minister today as promised.”
When pressed on whether, should there be further national lockdowns in the new year, gyms would have to close again, he added: “We are now at the point of reopening sport and the honourable lady, and everybody, knows that we have to respond to the circumstances at the time. It’s ridiculous to ask a Minister to come to this dispatch box and make promises based on future hypothetical scenarios.
“We will base decisions based on the information at the time. But we are now in a pattern and we have got the vaccination coming that I am very confident we are now looking positively to a much more positive future and that is what the Government will be focusing on.”
What do you think of the Prime Minister’s announcement? Are you happy to see golf courses reopen? Why not leave me your views in the comments, or tweet me.
- Related: What do the different Covid tier restrictions mean for your club?
- Related: How will clubs manage golf’s daylight crisis?
- Related: I’ll say what you’re all thinking – this lockdown is a sham
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