Gym owners have come out firing to reject Victorian government officials’ claims their businesses are at high risk of becoming coronavirus hotspots if they reopen.
Gyms and fitness centres will be among the last businesses to reopen under Premier Daniel Andrews’ roadmap out of lockdown released on Sunday.
The four-step plan out of lockdown says gyms will remain closed across the virus-riddled state until at least December.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton described gyms as known high risk settings which cause outbreaks.
The state’s fitness industry has since joined forces in a united fight to reclassify gyms, health clubs, fitness centres and studios as essential services similar to osteopathy, physiotherapy, dietetics and mental health services.
Fitness Australia chief executive Barrie Elvish also hit back in a strongly-worded open letter addressed to Professor Sutton.
Victorians are banished from gyms until December following the state’s second horror wave of coronavirus infections. Pictured is a woman getting her daily dose of exercise in Melbourne
He described Professor Sutton’s comments as devastating to thousands of gym owners, exercise professionals, personal trainers and gym members.
More than 7.31 million check-ins have been recorded at 546 gyms across New South Wales since they reopened on June 13 with no community transmissions to date, according to Fitness Australia data.
‘Given your comments about the importance of using data to make decisions, if you are aware of any contrary data showing gyms ’cause outbreaks’ please share it with us so that we can make our COVID-safe protocols even more effective,’ Mr Elvish wrote on Monday.
‘I am not so imprudent to believe that at some time in the future there may be some community transmission within an exercise facility but the data to date indicates that with good protocols, and positive adherence to them by all stakeholders, gyms can be indeed low risk.’
Gyms reopened in Victoria on June 22 only to be closed again less than three weeks later. Pictured is a man working out in a Geelong gym before the second coronavirus wave hit
Mr Elvish is unaware of any cases on transmission in a gym anywhere else in Australia.
‘The same could not be said for restaurants or bars where cluster cases have started and spread. However, gyms are still being categorised with these and other entertainment venues and cast in a negative light,’ he said on Sunday.
Forced lockdown shutdowns have kept Victorian fitness businesses closed 150 days to date so far.
Gyms and exercise studios in Victoria were the last across Australia to reopen on June 22 after closing in mid-March during the first wave of coronavirus.
They were forced to shut again after two-and-a-half weeks after Mr Andrews declared a six week lockdown.
This Muscle City Gym in Melbourne’s south-east was among thousands across Australia that became deserted when the first lockdown shutdowns hit in March
Melburnians are currently restricted to one hour of daily outdoor exercise within a five kilometre radius, which will be doubled to two hours from this Sunday.
12RND Fitness also issued a desperate plea to reopen.
‘We know that our members need more than just the opportunity to exercise; they need guidance, support and structure within their training,’ chief executive Michael Jordan said in a statement on Monday.
‘Many of our members come to us because they have not been able to take control of their health and fitness independently and need our services, and services like ours to remain motivated and to train safely and effectively.’
12RND Fitness says it can provide the community with a safe environment to stay active to benefit their physical wellbeing as well as their mental health under its strict COVID-safe
Gyms across Victoria (one pictured in Melbourne) are fighting to be reclassified as an essential service and be allowed to reopen their doors before December
‘In all states and territories outside of Victoria, this Covid-safe plan has proven to be effective in keeping our community safe,’ Mr Jordan said.
‘This outstanding evidence demonstrates that individuals can safely attend a fitness facility without community transmission, and that our industry has the capability to adapt to heavily restricted operations.
‘We strongly believe that all decisions made surrounding the government’s roadmap for reopening should be evidence-based and data-driven.’
Melburnians will have their exercise time doubled from one hour to two from September 13. Pictured is a Melburnian taking their dog for a walk along the St Kilda foreshore on Sunday
A Change.org petition calling on Premier Andrews to prioritise the mental wellbeing of Victorians during lockdown has garnered more than 20,600 signatures.
‘We are asking the Andrews Government to prioritise the mental wellbeing of Victorian’s coming out of stage four restrictions by allowing health and fitness providers to be a part of the solution by being considered as an essential industry and essential workers through legislative change at a state government level,’ the petition states.
‘Further measures taken would include hygiene practices, temperature checking, and bookings made essential for tracing purposes.’