Want Newport news straight to your inbox? Sign up to our newsletter!
Officers working for a Welsh police force have had access to three gyms based inside police stations throughout Wales’ alert level four lockdown.
The Welsh Government brought in its strictest lockdown measures in response to spiralling coronavirus cases in December last year.
Under the national rules all sports courts, golf courses, leisure, and fitness facilities have been forced to close to the public with tough penalties in place for anyone found to be breaching the restrictions.
But staff and officers working for Gwent Police have had access to three gyms based at their main Cwmbran headquarters, Blackwood and Newport Central Police Station since December.
The force said the decision was made to allow officers to continue to use the facilities as they “must maintain a minimum level of fitness to continue to perform their duties”.
Gwent Police did not publicise the decision, and the issue only came to light after WalesOnline asked the force to clarify its policy on the use of internal fitness facilities.
A spokesperson said the gyms are currently open to all staff members at Gwent Police, including office-based workers and community support officers.
Wales’ three other police forces (South Wales Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, and North Wales Police) all confirmed they have gyms based in their properties, but said they are all currently closed in line with alert level four restrictions.
Alex Bodin is the director of One Gyms, based at Langland Park West in Newport, which is one of the largest gyms in the city with about 2,000 members.
“To be honest I’m not against it at all,” Alex said.
“I just think it quite literally adds strength to what we have been saying the whole time. If it’s important for them to maintain their fitness, it’s just as important for us and the wider community.
“I’m getting between five and 10 calls a week at the minute from members, full-grown men and women, saying how much of an impact this has had on their mental and physical health.
“It has really hit home to us what impact we have on their day to day lives.”
Alex said his company has invested large amounts of money making their gym safe for reduced numbers to use.
Its 38,000 sq ft of floor space means physical distancing measures can be maintained, he said.
Get our best Newport stories straight to your inbox
Sign up to the NewportOnline newsletter to receive our top stories straight to your inbox.
It takes just seconds to sign up – simply click here, enter your email address and tick the box for ‘Newport’s Top Stories’. You can also subscribe to tailored content for rugby, politics, Swansea, Cardiff City FC, Swansea City FC and more.
Changed your mind? There’s an ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of every newsletter we send out.
“We’re one of the largest gyms in Wales with state of the art facilities,” Alex said.
“We invested a huge amount of money to ensure it was Covid-secure but I don’t think the powers that be see that. They have this idea of rusty weight gyms.”
He added: “It’s frustrating from our point of view. I’m glad officers have been taking part in looking after their health, but it’s a hard pill to swallow when you are not allowed to open your own facilities to members of the public.
“It should be a level playing field or be open and honest and put that information out.”
Gwent Police said all their gym facilities were closed in March 2020 on the same lines as the first national lockdown.
Following this, they reopened with the easing of restrictions and in line with national guidance.
In October, restrictions tightened again and the fitness units were closed once again.
The decision to allow gym facilities to remain open was completed in December and the gyms have been open to officers and staff ever since.
A Gwent Police spokesperson said: “Police officers are required to take mandatory fitness tests and job-related training in order to carry out their role to protect and reassure the communities of Gwent.
“All serving officers must adhere to strict policies on fitness and prescribed national requirements.
“A decision was taken by senior officers to allow a reduced number of Gwent Police gym facilities to remain open outside of alert level four restrictions.
“The rationale to allow gym facilities to operate, with a reduced capacity, was based on the fact that officers must maintain a minimum level of fitness to continue to perform their duties.”
A South Wales Police spokesperson said: “South Wales Police has a number of gym facilities across our estate which are currently closed.
“Facilities needed for firearms, public order and officer safety training are used as required.”
A North Wales Police spokesperson said: “We have a number of gyms in our buildings across the force area. These are currently closed, but under normal circumstances are only for use by NWP employees.
“There is however a requirement for officers to take mandatory fitness tests, which can at times involve the use of a treadmill. When this is the case risk assessments are carried out and social distancing observed.”
A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: ” We have gyms located at the following police stations: Carmarthenshire – Llanelli and HQ, Ceredigion – Aberystwyth and Cardigan, Pembrokeshire – Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest and, Powys – Newtown, Brecon and Llandrindod Wells.
“None of these gyms are open to staff (all closed), in line with national rules surrounding gym and fitness facilities.”
This content was originally published here.