A GYM owner whose brother died after the first coronavirus lockdown says he is fighting for the freedom of others.

Iain Douglas, who lives in Newton Aycliffe, has owned Bodies Gym in Spennymoor since 2017.

Mr Douglas said he complied with the first two lockdowns, but is now calling for gyms to reopen after seeing what he describes as "the devastating effects the restrictions have had on people".

Mr Douglas, who has held peaceful protests at his gym against the restrictions, has now been issued with a prohibition notice by Durham County Council, which orders the premises to stop any unsafe activity.

Mr Douglas said he fears for people's mental and physical health during lockdown following the death of his brother.

The fitness enthusiast said the initial lockdown last March led to a significant decline is his brother, Craig's health.

Mr Douglas said: “Craig has been an addict to the drink all of his life, but he certainly wasn’t at the end of his life.

"After the first lockdown ended he started having problems.

"His functioning ability had slowed down, his legs had swollen up and he started to look jaundice. He ended up in hospital and was told he had significant cirrhosis of the liver.”

During the time he was in Durham’s University hospital the region was in Tier 2 and due to the restrictions the family were unable to visit.

Mr Douglas said his brother spent the last nine days of his life in hospital with no contact with the family before his death.

He said: “I believe Covid exists, but if the first two lockdowns haven’t worked then it’s madness to put the country in another one.”

In response, a Government spokesperson said: “Given the higher transmissibility of the new variant, stricter measures are now necessary to curb the spread of the virus, reduce pressure on the NHS and ultimately save lives.

“We recognise this is an exceptionally difficult time for many and are committed to supporting people’s mental health.

“Mental health services have stayed open throughout the pandemic and we encourage anyone who is struggling to come forward for help.” 

Mr Douglas said the gym doors will be open “in some shape or form” this weekend.

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of community protection, said: “We became aware that Bodies Gym at Spennymoor has been continuing to allow public access in contravention of health protection legislation aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus. We have served a prohibition notice on the gym owner directing that it close with immediate effect and will be monitoring the situation.

“We know the overwhelming majority of businesses in County Durham are complying with the health protection legislation but would like to remind everyone that the various restrictions are in place to keep us all safe, protect the NHS and save lives so we would ask that everyone follows these national requirements.  

“We can help gyms and other companies which have lost income or had to close as a result of coronavirus restrictions, through a range of business support grants. Information on these can be found on our website.”

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