AS the coronavirus lockdown eases across the UK, people are wondering how their daily routines will change.
Steadily decreasing new COVID-19 cases each day means a return to activities such as resuming gym sessions, and travelling by public transport as we gradually leave the confines of our home after four months of restrictions.
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Are gyms safe during the coronavirus pandemic?
Gyms and leisure centres will be allowed to reopen in England from Saturday July 25.
Gyms in Northern Ireland opened earlier this month, but indoor gyms remain closed in Scotland and Wales.
In early July, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that gyms and leisure centres can welcome back gym-goers from July 25, but with strict hygiene and social-distancing measures.
Some experts say that working out outdoors is the safest bet during the pandemic.
But others point out that exercise is important for your physical and mental health.
America’s Advisory Board reports that public health experts recommend people should consider their personal risks before going back to the gym, as well as any safety precautions the gym might have in place.
Saadia Griffith-Howard, an infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente, said: "You have to make your own assessment of how risky it is based on knowing your medical situation and whether you are someone who's at high risk for an infection.”
Underlying health conditions
According to NPR, gymgoers with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, as well as people who are 65 and older, may want to consider staying home.
Lou Ann Bruno-Murtha, division chief of infectious diseases at Cambridge Health Alliance, said that people living in coronavirus hot spots should should consider skipping the gym.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that indoor gyms, swimming pools and other sport and exercise facilities will not reopen in Luton or Blackburn with Darwen due to an increase in coronavirus cases in those areas.
Gyms must maintain strict regimes to keep facilities as safe as possible.
On its advice page, the government suggests that "all venues should encourage attendees to arrive at the facility in sports kit and where possible to travel home to change/shower.
"Use of changing rooms and showering facilities should in general be avoided where possible, although these must be available for participants with disabilities or special needs and are likely to be needed after swimming."
"All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other.
"This includes – but is not limited to – refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.
"This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission – particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission," the guidance adds.
Gyms should also limit capacity, enforce physical distancing, and disinfect all equipment before and after use.
Ventilation of premises is another important aspect – as bigger space and more ventilation can help to dilute the concentration of coronavirus in the air.
Doug Reed, an immunologist and aerobiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explained: "When you are exercising and exerting yourself, you're going to be breathing out and breathing in more than you normally would.
"And so the potential for being infected or spreading the infection would be that much higher."
It's not compulsory to wear a mask in the gym.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We have not taken a decision to require the wearing of face masks in respect of gyms."
But some experts reckon that it's a risk to not wear them.
Nikita Desai, a pulmonologist with the Cleveland Clinic, told NPR: "I would be less worried about the jogger who is running past you for a split second and more worried about the person who's working out next to you without a mask for half an hour."
Gyms have to keep a record of attendees for 21 days so they can let them know if there has been a Covid-19 outbreak in the vicinity.
Is it safe to use a swimming pool?
Due to chemicals used to keep water clean, public swimming pools tend to be pretty bug-free.
Experts say that chlorine and other chemicals will kill traces of the virus.
The World Health Organisation recommended chlorination level of 15mg.min/litre is sufficient to kill enveloped and non-enveloped viruses.
Guidance from the Pool Water Treatment and Advisory Group (PWTAG) reads: "Public health opinion is that it is generally safe to go swimming at this time. Water and the chlorine within swimming pools will help to kill the virus."
Any equipment used in pools will need to be cleaned in between use, while capacity will have to be limited to allow each swimmer six square metres of space.
As with other places such as supermarkets, strict social distancing measures will also have to be adopted at pools.
Personal hygiene when out of the water is of the upmost importance.
This includes showering before and after swimming and disinfecting your hands after you’ve pushed and pulled door handles or touched your locker.
Hand washing routines also apply, making sure you thoroughly wash for 20 seconds with soap and water when you return home.
Experts also advise to wash and maintain clean swimming kit and towels, using a high 60 degree wash to kill any bugs.
Official sports body Swim England recommends avoiding using any public pool if you feel unwell to reduce the spread of disease.
How safe is public transport?
Brits have been ordered to wear face masks on buses and trains — with fines for refusing.
Ministers made it a “condition of carriage” for face coverings to be worn on public transport from June 15 in a bid to slash the spread of coronavirus.
Research published by the Institute of Global Health showed that people who used more than one tube line frequently were more likely to suffer from flu-like symptoms.
The London Underground serves roughly 1.2 billion passengers annually, and is a particular hot spot for infectious diseases.
Those most at risk were found to be commuters who take long journeys or use busy stations, as they come into contact with more shared surfaces and people.
Network Rail says it is continuing with its "business as usual" cleaning schedule but is making plans for extra, specialist cleans of stations if necessary.
Major bus operator Arriva also said it would continue with a normal cleaning regime for the moment.
Bus parts that are regularly touched – such as poles and doors – will be wiped down with a strong disinfectant every day.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) says UK train companies are closely monitoring the latest Public Health England advice.
An RDG statement said: “We are ensuring that rail staff are kept aware of the latest advice to maintain good hand hygiene and keep surfaces clean, particularly in customer facing locations.
Travelling at off peak times may be a way to mitigate having to use busy public transport, however this is not an option for a lot of people.
It is best to wash your hands before and after using the bus, tube or the train to stop the spread of all infections, not just Covid-19.
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