Gyms and leisure centres should be allowed to reopen now or the Welsh Government needs to publish the scientific evidence being used to keep them closed, an MP has said.
David Davies is backing calls from angry gym owners who argue there is no justifiable reason for maintaining restrictions on the fitness sector.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has already brought forward the reopening date for gyms and leisure centres from 10 May to 3 May, stating a drop in Covid-19 cases prompted the change.
But with gyms allowed to open in England on 12 April and claim up to £18,000 in restart grants, there is a growing feeling of frustration among Welsh gym owners.
They say Welsh Government support dried up at the end of March and they are currently receiving no financial assistance until they can reopen on 3 May.
It has sparked fears that facilities particularly close to the border could lose clients to gyms just a few miles away.
Claire Pennington is director of the Hub Gym in Chepstow. She said Wales is facing a “wave” of problems with mental health and obesity because of the continued shutdown.
“From social media, we can see dozens and dozens of our Welsh members simply driving over the bridge and - quite rightly - using gyms in England,” said Ms Pennington.
“The Welsh Government has been good with grants, but that finished on 1 April and the impact to my business has been devastating. Our gym cannot legally open whereas one a few miles away in England can. There is no evidence to support this decision and there is no compensation to remain closed.
“So why should we? Because we are threatened with fines and prison for daring to want to have a business open a minute before we are told we are allowed to.”
The Welsh Government has remained cautious over the reopening of gyms, pointing to fears of the more transmissible and highly infectious Kent variant of Covid-19 taking hold in the country.
Yet gym owners say they pose no greater risk than any other sector and feel they are experiencing an “irrational” and “disproportionately unfair” restriction of trade when non-essential retail, hairdressers and beauty salons are now open.
“The gym participated fully in track and trace from inception - not one case or event was linked back to it at any point, it's a modern gym with very good ventilation,” added Ms Pennington.
“Our members are all sensible and simply want to maintain or improve their physical and mental health.”
Monmouth MP Mr Davies has written four times asking the Welsh Government to provide clear evidence-based justification for statements made by Mr Drakeford which suggest gyms are potentially vulnerable to the Kent variant of coronavirus.
No response has been received.
“It seems clear to me that the continued delays to reopening the fitness sector are not driven by scientific advice, otherwise it would be an easy win to provide that evidence if the Welsh Government had it,” said Mr Davies.
“There has unfortunately been a lot of misinformation about gyms being possible super-spreader environments despite the fact the Kent variant is no more harmful than the original Covid-19 strain according to research.
“The First Minister and Welsh Government need to address these inconsistences about the cleanliness and safety of gyms and leisure centres. This new reopening date of 3 May is welcome but not early enough and without hard scientific evidence to back up the delay, I can see no reason why gyms can’t open their doors immediately.”