Fuming Duncan Bannatyne in Twitter row over use of masks in gym

EXCLUSIVE: Just wear a bloody mask! Fuming Duncan Bannatyne rants in Twitter meltdown at customers amid confusion over when they have to wear face coverings at his gyms

  • Duncan Bannatyne re-opens his gyms on July 25 with social distancing rules 
  • All gyms in England open on Saturday and Government has issued guidelines
  • It says masks must not be worn while exercising but adds they should be used in enclosed spaces, leading to confusion
  • Under Bannatyne’s rules, masks must be worn on arrival at the gym and between equipment but not while working out 
  • His guidance prompted furious online debate among his 210,000 customers some of whom questioned the logic and safety of his advice 
  • A clearly frustrated Bannatyne sent over 50 Tweets, clashing with people over the guidance

Former Dragon’s Den star and multi-millionaire gym owner Duncan Bannatyne became embroiled in a Twitter row today over the use of face masks at his health clubs.

The 71-year-old entrepreneur is preparing to reopen his network of more than 70 upmarket gyms following the outbreak of coronavirus in March.

All gyms in England are due to open on Saturday and the Government has issued guidance on social distancing, cleaning equipment and avoiding communal changing areas.

On masks, it advises against using them while exercising, but also suggests wearing them in enclosed public spaces, leading to confusion.

Bannatyne has ruled that in his gyms, customers must cover their faces when they arrive and when moving between equipment but not while working out.

But his guidance prompted furious online debate among his 210,000 customers, some of whom who questioned the logic of his advice.

Former Dragon’s Den star and multi-millionaire gym owner Duncan Bannatyne became embroiled in a Twitter row today over the use of face masks at his health clubs

The 71-year-old entrepreneur is preparing to reopen his network of more than 70 upmarket gyms following the outbreak of coronavirus in March

Some voiced fears that the risk of transmission of Covid-19 increases when people are breathing hard during vigorous exercise.

‘Calmly walking in, mask on,’ said Rob Franklin in a message to Bannatyne. ‘Huffing, puffing, panting during exercise – mask off. Guidelines don’t make a great deal of sense.’

Jose Roque agreed. ‘So, if you don’t have to wear one while training, what exactly is the point?’ he asked.

Others were just angry at the thought of wearing a mask at all.

‘I tell you what Bannatyne – there’s no way I’m wearing a mask at one of your gyms,’ said Graham Barwell, a Glaswegian customer who is enthusiastic about weights. ‘I’ll use your gym as normal thanks. Without a mask.’

The increasingly exasperated Bannatyne shot back: ‘Don’t embarrass yourself by coming.’ 

As the tweets piled up, the carefree mood Bannatyne displayed during a stay at his £5 million villa in Portugal, just eight weeks ago, with glamorous wife, Nigora, appeared to desert him.

He fired off around 50 tweets on the subject in the past 24 hours. 

‘Wear a bloody mask,’ he ranted at one tweeter. ‘It’s not difficult.’

While some people questioned the logic of taking masks on and off, others questioned the point of them at all

Under the new rules, customers must wear a mask as they enter the gym and when moving between equipment but not while exercising 

Some voiced fears that the risk of transmission of Covid-19 increases when people are breathing hard during vigorous exercise 

As the tweets piled up, the carefree mood Bannatyne displayed during a stay at his £5 million villa in Portugal, just eight weeks ago, with glamorous wife, Nigora, appeared to desert him

During the luxury break in the Algarve, Bannatyne’s wife Nigora, 40, sported a bright pink Chanel face covering, which costs £250

‘It’s Duncan’s Law,’ he rebuked another, who had queried the decision to allow no mask during exercise.

Some customers complained that putting on and taking off masks, and holding them during exercise, increases the risk of contaminating face coverings with the deadly virus.

But Bannatyne was not having that.

‘For Christ’s sake! Put it in your pocket,’ he fumed.

The Government has advised people not to touch the front of their masks for fear they may infect themselves.

Meanwhile, the Bannatynes are already kitted up for the big reopening of his gyms.

During the luxury break in the Algarve, Bannatyne’s wife Nigora, 40, sported a bright pink Chanel face covering, which costs £250.

The masks on offer at Bannatyne’s health clubs are more modest, retailing at £9.99 for a pack of two.

The row over face coverings demonstrates confusion over their effectiveness, even though it will be compulsory to wear them in shops and supermarkets from tomorrow and the penalty for not complying is a fine of up to £100. 

According to Government guidance, face coverings should not be worn while exercising because it ‘may restrict breathing efficiency’.

The row over face coverings demonstrates confusion over their effectiveness, even though it will be compulsory to wear them in shops and supermarkets from tomorrow and the penalty for not complying is a fine of up to £100

Government Guidance on Face Masks 

Government guidance on the use of face coverings in gyms is limited, despite the Government publishing 29 pages of guidelines for the ‘providers of gym/leisure facilities’, ahead of their reopening on July 25.

In fact, the guidance suggests coverings will be of limited value in preventing the spread of coronavirus, or protecting yourself.

The document, which was updated on Thursday last week, says that face coverings should not be worn during exercise because it ‘may restrict breathing efficiency’.

The advice, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, says that ‘people are encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces’.

But it goes on to say ‘the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small’.

The Government recommends focusing on other forms of protection.

 The guidance states: ‘Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing.’

However, the guidelines, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last week, go on to say ‘the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small’.

The Bannatyne clubs have been closed for four months since Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a coronavirus lockdown on March 23.

More than 2,500 of 3,000 staff at the gyms have been on furlough with the Government picking up part of their wages and in May, Bannatyne said the outbreak of coronavirus had cost his group £30 million.

The requirement to wear face masks is just one of a number of measures the Bannatyne Group has introduced at its gyms, in line with Government guidance.

Staff will take customers’ temperatures when they arrive, Bannatyne wristbands will be used to make payments to avoid handling cash and cards, hand sanitisers have been set up.

Customers will be provided with cleaning products and disposable roll to clean equipment after use.

In addition, classes will accept reduced numbers and customers will be kept at a social distance using tape on the floor and spacing out equipment.

Speaking last week, Mr Bannatyne, said: ‘A lot of hard work has been going on behind the scenes at all the Bannatyne health clubs to ensure that our large and spacious facilities, which are conducive to social distancing, are safe for members and staff.’

He said most members of the health clubs had been ‘loyal throughout the pandemic’ and staff had ‘remained positive through the very difficult last few months’.

And Bannatyne’s approach is supported by expert opinion.

Dr James Turner, an expert in exercise and immunology at the University of Bath, said: ‘If you go to the gym it is very sensible to wear a face mask as you enter and walk around.

‘I would hope gyms will keep customers socially distanced and at least 2 meters apart while they exercise. If you are exercising in a socially distanced way, I would expect you are not putting other people at any more risk even if you are not wearing a mask during the exercise bout itself as per the current government guidelines, especially if protective screens are in place in the gym.

‘Exercise certainly helps our immune system to function normally and that is important. Exercise does not suppress the immune system.’ 

More than 2,500 of 3,000 staff at the gyms have been on furlough with the Government picking up part of their wages and in May, Bannatyne said the outbreak of coronavirus had cost his group £30 million

How to Stay Safe in the Gym 

The Government has issued advice for gym owners and their customers to help keep staff and users safe. The guidance includes:

Avoid using changing rooms. Arrive in sports kits and travel home for a shower.

Do not raise your voice and avoid anyone who is. Don’t play music in the gym because it may encourage shouting and background noise and might make normal conversation difficult.

Use handwash and hand sanitiser regularly.

Leave gym doors open to encourage ventilation, where it is safe to do so.

Manage the number of customers based on social distancing, the number of pieces of equipment and the size of the venue to ensure there is enough clean air for all of the users.

The maximum occupancy should allow 100 sq ft per person, which will double the typical ventilation flow to 20 litres/second/person.

Ventilation systems should use a fresh air supply, not recirculated air.

Gyms should provide spray and cloths for customers to clean equipment, who should see it as ‘duty’ to wipe down equipment before and after they have used it.

Gyms need to ensure frequent cleaning of equipment and objects, such as weights and surfaces, including mats.

Use markings on the floor and between pieces of equipment and one-way routes around the building to maintain social distancing.

If possible, put screens between gym equipment and mark out safe distances using tape

Manage changeovers to avoid crowds congregating by staggering classes and put breaks in between group sessions so cleaning can take place

Use tape to mark out each person’s safe space on the floor for exercise and dance classes

Where possible use advance bookings

Collect names, telephone numbers, date and time of the visit for NHS Test and Trace

 

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