Ex-Olympian gym boss spending £20,000 a month furloughing staff slams Boris Johnson

A gym owner who is spending £20,000 a month furloughing her staff today slammed Boris Johnson for opening pubs before fitness centres. 

Former Olympic speed skater Sarah Lindsay owns Roar Fitness transformation gyms which have branches across London

Appearing on Good Morning Britain today, she revealed it was costing her some £20,000 a month to furlough staff while paying tens of thousands of pounds in rent despite being closed for nearly a year.

The businesswoman, who counts celebrities including Vogue Williams and Piers Morgan among her clients, hit out at the government for failing to do enough to help small businesses during the pandemic.

She added: ‘I just don’t understand why health and fitness and wellness isn’t prioritised more – you’re going to be able to – and this is going to be a very unpopular opinion I’m sure – but you’re going to be able to go to a pub garden and have a pint before you can focus on your health.’

This comes after Boris Johnson announced his cautious roadmap out of lockdown yesterday evening, despite the vaccination drive surging ahead. 

In a hammer blow to many businesses, gyms, shops, hairdressers and pubs must remain closed until April 12 at the earliest – regardless of mounting fears about the economic meltdown. 

Former Olympic speed skater Sarah Lindsay owns Roar Fitness transformation gyms across London

The Government’s ‘socio-economic analysis’ of Step 1: How education and physical and mental health have all deteriorated during the coronavirus lockdowns


The Government’s roadmap admits that school closures and restrictions on face-to-face education has had ‘significant and adverse impacts on children’s learning, development and mental health’.  

By February 2021 half term, studies suggest the total loss in face-to-face learning could amount to around half a school year, with two thirds of a normal year lost if school reopening were to be delayed to after Easter. 

The roadmap states that as well as benefiting students directly, parents will no longer have to balance childcare and working from home: ‘Around 53 per cent of parents report a reduced ability to work as a result of school closures; this is more acutely felt by parents of early years and primary aged children.’


Sports, amusement and recreational activities were worth an estimated £12.8billion in the UK in 2019 (£11billion in England), providing around 565,000 jobs (484,000 in England), the roadmap says.

The Government believes that the easing of measures could enable some of these activities to return and take advantage of the spring/summer season and recover lost revenues. 

These businesses are particularly important employers for young people, with 37 per cent of their workforce between 16 to 24 years old (compared to a national average of 11 per cent), the Government added.


The roadmap admits that lockdowns have had a massive effect on the physical and mental health of ‘large parts of the population, in particular children and those living alone’.

The Government believes that opening outdoor sports settings will ‘reduce individuals’ risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent and lower risk of early death by up to 30 per cent’.

Physical activity is also known to help with improving mental health through better sleep, happier moods, and managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and ‘racing’ thoughts, the roadmap added.

It also recorded how restrictions on socialising have had an adverse impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health with nearly half of adults (49 per cent) reporting boredom, loneliness, anxiety or stress arising due to the pandemic.

Sarah runs Roar Fitness, which specialises in complete body transformations in as little as eight weeks. Throughout the lockdown she has been running weekly live workouts on her Instagram

Today she joined the chorus of gym owners who’ve slammed the government for not opening gyms sooner. 

She told GMB: ‘I represent a lot of small businesses. There’s just a bit of a gap, I think, where certain things are priorities, some things aren’t and we’re just left hanging. 

‘I just think that that should be pushed a bit harder really rather than held back.’

Asked what she wants to hear from Chancellor Rishi Sunak next week, she added: ‘We need to be looked after. We have all these expenses going out and no income going in.

‘The biggest expenses are rent so that has to be looked at but at the moment it’s just between us and our landlords so if they’re not able to help you or don’t want to help you then you’re still responsible for paying it and although they can’t evict you while were still locked down, they can the day you open.

‘If you don’t pay your arrears then you’re breaking the terms of your lease. So there’s no point in not paying it, so you do still have to pay. 

‘Everybody’s got a loan so people have had to borrow lots of money and yes, that might be interest free, but I don’t want debt.

‘I don’t want to accumulate debt – I wasn’t in debt before. 

‘I’m hoping that they extend this interest free period because lots of people borrowed a year ago and we’ve been closed a year, so what’s going to happen then?’

The businesswoman’s call to action comes amid growing Tory and business disquiet about the ultra-cautious approach being taken by Boris Johnson, even though the vaccination drive has been surging ahead.

Schools will return on March 8, but there will be almost no further loosening of the draconian curbs before Easter. There will be a five week gap between each of the four main stages of the plan, with scientists having won the argument in government that time is needed to assess the impact.

The PM has been boosted by snap polls showing the public largely backs his stance, with 46 per cent telling YouGov it is about right – and around a fifth suggesting it is too fast.

Prof Ferguson – whose grim modelling triggered the initial lockdown last year – sounded a bright note on Times Radio last night.

‘Hopefully what we’ll see when each step happens is a very limited resurgence of infections. In which case, there’s a chance we can accelerate the schedule,’ he said.

However, Mr Hancock dismissed the idea of speeding the schedule up in a round of interviews this morning. ‘No. We need to see the effects of each step, and that takes five weeks,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tories has claimed the Government’s roadmap is based on ‘dodgy assumptions’. 

Former chief whip Mark Harper told LBC that delays to lifting restrictions were due to the Government ‘understating’ the performance of the vaccine. 

The businesswoman, who counts celebrities including Vogue Williams and Piers Morgan among her clients, hit out at the government for failing to do enough to help small businesses during the pandemic.

Sarah Lindsay

The businesswoman, who counts celebrities including Vogue Williams and Piers Morgan among her clients, hit out at the government for failing to do enough to help small businesses during the pandemic.

How will lockdown ease in the roadmap?  

Step One Part One: March 8

From March 8, all pupils and students will return to schools and colleges across England.

So-called wrap-around childcare will also be allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.

People will be allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.

Care home residents will be able to have one regular named visitor.

The Government’s stay at home order will remain in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.

Step One Part Two: March 29

From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.

Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.

However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.

People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.

Step Two: April 12

Nom-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.

Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.

Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.

However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.

Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.

Any visits to a pub or restuarant will have to comply with the rules on social contact, so no more than two households or the rule of six.

The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.

All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.

Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.

Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.

Step Three: May 17

The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.

Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.

However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.

This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.

Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.

Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full

The Forest of Dean MP said: ‘The biggest flaw is they assume a very low uptake of the vaccine.

‘We know the uptake of the vaccine is over 90 per cent in the top groups that have been vaccinated, above 95 per cent, they’ve assumed 15 per cent of the population don’t take the vaccine.

‘I have two problems with that, one is that isn’t realistic, that’s not what’s happening, but secondly there is a real question about whether the rest of the country should be held back for two months because some people choose not to take the vaccine.’

He added: ‘The Government seems to have looked at some models with dodgy assumptions and have effectively delayed opening the country by two months.’

Announcing his plan last night, Mr Johnson insisted he was putting Britain on a ‘one way road to freedom’ that would put the nation in an ‘incomparably better’ position.

Progress along the roadmap will depend on meeting four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS.

The Prime Minister denied he was being overly cautious, saying the reopening would happen ‘as fast as we reasonably can’ and the ‘end really is in sight’.

Insisting that the unlocking would be led by ‘data not dates’, he added: ‘I won’t be buccaneering with people’s lives.’ But he acknowledged there was no guarantee a fourth lockdown would not be needed if the virus took an unexpected turn. 

It has emerged that Sage scientific advisers had warned heavily against an accelerated timetable, saying it would lead to many more infections.

They said a further 90,000 deaths could result in a worst-case scenario. They modelled the effects of allowing solo indoor visitors as early as March 29 but found it would increase hospital admissions significantly.

Under an initial scenario, Mr Johnson had planned to reopen outdoor pubs and restaurants, outdoor attractions and non-essential shops in time for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend – but this was delayed until April 12 following criticism by Government scientists.

Papers released last night showed that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned No10 there would be at least another 30,000 coronavirus deaths in even the ‘most optimistic’ case – and possibly 91,000 caused by a dramatic spike in cases following a rapid easing of lockdown in April.

Presenting their modelling of a series of different roadmaps out of lockdown, the scientists claimed that without a gradual approach, the pressure on NHS hospitals would peak in June at nearly 60,000 coronavirus inpatients – higher than even last month’s peak of 39,000 patients.

The SAGE papers also showed that the timetable, which also would have brought the full reopening of hospitality in either April or May, could have led to 55,000 further deaths and the R rate rising by as much as 0.5.

Scientists were again urging caution today as the government fended off criticism.

Dr Mike Tildesley, reader in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the University of Warwick and a member of the Government advisory group SPI-M, said the ‘one-way route to freedom’ promised by the PM was ‘potentially a little bit uncertain’.

When asked whether the dates for lifting restrictions may change, he told the Today programme: ‘In terms of the future dates, I think we always need to be aware that the Government needs to be reactive – if we do see a spike in cases or if we see things not going down as fast as we hoped, I think there needs to remain the possibility to hold off for a couple of weeks so we get things in control.

‘Particularly if the Government wants to have this one-way route to freedom, which I think in itself is potentially a little bit uncertain.

‘It may be that we have to have some measures introduced for a little bit of time in order to prevent these surges of infection occurring so that ultimately we can take virtually a one-way route back to normality.’

Dr Tildesley said that he was ‘concerned’ that the virus might persist particular parts of the country.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether Covid-19 could remain a ‘disease of the deprived’, he said: ‘This is a real concern actually for me and I know a number of other scientists have raised this, that we may end up in a situation where we have the ‘vaccine rich’ and as it were, who are able to access the vaccine who have taken up the vaccine and are at much lower risk.

‘And the maybe people in society who have not taken up the vaccine and potentially these individuals could be clustered in particular parts of the country, and there is increased risk there.

‘So I think it’s something that we do need to do more about to make sure that the vaccine is available to everyone to take up and so that we minimise the risk of the virus persisting in particular parts of the country, and causing much more harm to those communities.’

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