Gyms thrilled to be ‘next cab off the rank’
Gyms were expected to be one of the last businesses allowed to re-open but today's announcement has revealed they will be "the next cab off the rank" as coronavirus restrictions are eased.
The industry has worked hard to justify how gyms can re-open safely, pointing to the use of CCTV and swipe cards, which could help authorities track those impacted by a potential outbreak.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that gyms would be allowed to re-open as part of step two in the relaxing of restrictions. This would still allow them to re-open ahead of the pubs and clubs, which are included in step three.
Outdoor gyms and boot camps will be allowed to re-open as part of step one, with up to 10 people attending.
"It was encouraging to hear Scott Morrison specifically mention gyms are the next cab off the rank," Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish.
Mr Elvish said protocols had been developed to ensure a safe and hygienic environment for members including disabling water bubblers and showers, and asking people to bring their own towels and drink bottles.
"If you had treadmills or spin cycles, the protocol is you'd disable every second or third one, so you can't get on it subconsciously, and also gym staff will have to be much more proactive in both cleaning equipment as they walk around, but also reminding people that they need to practice social distancing," Mr Elvish told nine.com.au.
The Fitness Playground chief executive officer Justin Ashley also welcomed Mr Morrison's announcement today and said they had spent the last six weeks implementing changes to ensure it could open again safely.
"We are thrilled with the news today that a re-opening plan for gyms is in sight," he said.
"We feel that gyms have key advantages that other businesses don't, such as CCTV, access control and booking systems, which position us to uniquely abide by re-opening frameworks and regulations.
"We have built a 30 page document that considers the safety of members and staff, as well as how we can innovate our way out of this crisis.
"We have installed sanitatisation stations, air purifiers and moved all equipment to 1.5m spacing."
As part of step two, larger gatherings of up to 20 people for "organised community sport" and small exercise classes such as barre could be allowed again.
However, Mr Elvish said limiting gyms to just 20 people would not be sustainable as it would not be commercially viable.
"We're assuming they mean 20 people per room, which makes absolute sense, as long as they can abide by social distancing."
In the event of an outbreak, he said gyms could also provide authorities with electronic swipe card data to allow contact tracing.
"We can provide them with real time data of who has been in the gym, what time, day, how long and so on," he said.
The exact timing of the re-openings will vary from state-to-state with some releasing timetables today of when they expect restrictions to be lifted.
"We expect some states to move quicker than others as we have already seen with the Northern Territory," Mr Elvish said.
Fitness Australia has estimated that four million Australians have gym memberships and Mr Elvish said it was a $3 billion industry.
"Gyms can reopen safely, and we have a committed industry who is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the health and safety of members and staff so they can reopen and restart their businesses," he said.
Speaking to reporters today Mr Morrison outlined his plan for how Australia would step back lockdown measures first introduced in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Prime Minister said step one of easing restrictions - the timing of which will be decided on a state and territory basis - would allow the resumption of some recreational activities.
The changes would allow gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors and up to five guests in your home, he said.
"It will see children back in classrooms and in playgrounds in their communities," Mr Morrison said.
"Golfers back on the green, lap swimmers back in the pool, boot camps back in the parks."
However Mr Morrison was quick to stress there should be "no expectation of step one starting on day one" and that "moving on these steps will take some preparation".
"The pace though will totally be up to the states and territories," he said.
"They'll be responsible for setting their own timetable and communicating that to their citizens and residents in their own states and territories."
When asked on when we could expect to see kids back playing sport Mr Morrison said "training would be able to occur for those types of sports" under step one measures.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said stage two would allow for sport in groups of 20 and it "may well be possible for some competition to occur then".
The Prime Minister's announcement comes as the Northern Territory announced it will reopen gyms from Friday next week, however experts have warned other states that gyms will likely not open until at least September.
The NT has all but eradicated new coronavirus cases and is the only state or territory to record no deaths from the disease.
Meanwhile there are still new infections occurring in other states, with outbreak clusters at Newmarch nursing home in Sydney's west and Melbourne's Cedar Meats facility causing concern among health officials.
Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control president and Monash University School of Nursing and Midwifery associate professor Philip Russo told news.com.au this week that it was still hard to predict when gyms would reopen Australia wide.
"I really can't say what the time frame will be," he said.
"Even though we have done well in Australia in flattening the curve, we are only one or two clusters away from changing the shape of that curve.
"It still remains very much a day by day, week by week, review of the data."
Assoc Prof Russo said gyms could only safely reopen when Australia was"consistently maintaining the long term reduction in cases", as opposed to when a certain threshold in the number of cases is reached.
Originally published as Gyms thrilled to be 'next cab off the rank'