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Gym owners slams lockdown rules allowing alcohol and gambling while gyms stay shut

A gym owner has slammed the reopening of pubs and gaming venues while businesses that improve physical and mental health are barred from operating.

Justin Ashley, the founder and CEO of Fitness Playground gyms, has joined other industry leaders in voicing his frustration over COVID-19 restrictions for pubs, restaurants, cafes and beauty salons being loosened while gyms remain shut. 

The NSW Government has allowed beauty salons to return to business on June 1, while restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to hold up to 50 customers from that date.

But gyms across the state remain closed and the government has not provided a clear timeline on when they could be opened – despite all other states and territories moving to do so. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday said gyms won’t open in the ‘foreseeable future’ due to their ‘health risk’.

‘Look, we’re still working with industry on that… obviously frequent use of equipment at short intervals poses a health risk,’ Ms Berejiklian said.

Justin Ashley, the founder and CEO of Fitness Playground gyms, has joined other industry leaders in voicing his frustration that COVID-19 restrictions for pubs, restaurants, cafes and beauty salons have been loosened ahead of gyms. Pictured: Women work out at Fitness Playground before bans were introduced 

The New South Wales Government has allowed beauty salons to return to business on June 1, while restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to hold up to 50 customers. But gyms across the state remain closed and the government has not provided a clear timeline on when they could be opened. Pictured: Customers dine at the Rio in Summer Hill, Sydney on Friday May 15 as the first lot of restrictions are eased

The New South Wales Government has allowed beauty salons to return to business on June 1, while restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to hold up to 50 customers. But gyms across the state remain closed and the government has not provided a clear timeline on when they could be opened. Pictured: Customers dine at the Rio in Summer Hill, Sydney on Friday May 15 as the first lot of restrictions are eased

Gyms were shut across the country on March 23 as the Australian Government desperately attempted to control the COVID-19 outbreak (Fitness Playground gym pictured)

 Gyms were shut across the country on March 23 as the Australian Government desperately attempted to control the COVID-19 outbreak (Fitness Playground gym pictured)

While Mr Ashley commended the NSW Government for their ‘exceptional job’ handling the unprecedented health crisis, he is disappointed gyms were not given the same focus as other businesses.

‘As a business owner, I understand the government prioritising the reopening of institutions that drive the economy,’ he said. 

‘But I feel it is time to see evidence of the same priority being placed on our physical and mental health.’

Mr Ashley went on to compare the forced closure of gyms with the eased restrictions come June 1. 

Justin Ashley (pictured) commended the NSW Government for their 'exceptional job' handling the unprecedented health crisis, but is disappointed gyms were not given the same focus as other businesses

Justin Ashley (pictured) commended the NSW Government for their ‘exceptional job’ handling the unprecedented health crisis, but is disappointed gyms were not given the same focus as other businesses 

‘Poker machines and horse racing will be operational, botox injections may commence, yet socially distant personal training cannot,’ he said.

‘The NRL can play, but Yogis can’t practice – even with their own mat, at 1.5m social distancing.’

He argued the fitness industry is ‘uniquely positioned’ to keep community members safe if there was another COVID-19 outbreak.

‘We have access control, booking systems, and CCTV as part of our existing infrastructure,’ Mr Ashley explained. 

‘Our members place towels on equipment, sanitise regularly, plus clean before and after use. So we are ready to open, safely.’

Mr Ashley said he appreciates the need to restart the economy but the health of Australians should be put first.  

‘With winter approaching our ability to get outdoors is becoming harder and harder,’ he said.

A group of women attend a class at a Fitness Playground gym before they were shut due to the coronavirus crisis

A group of women attend a class at a Fitness Playground gym before they were shut due to the coronavirus crisis

Mr Ashley compared the forced closure of gyms with the eased restrictions come June 1. 'Poker machines and horse racing will be operational, botox injections may commence, yet socially distant personal training cannot,' he said (stock image)

Mr Ashley compared the forced closure of gyms with the eased restrictions come June 1. ‘Poker machines and horse racing will be operational, botox injections may commence, yet socially distant personal training cannot,’ he said (stock image)

‘Being isolated at home, with no physical exercise, amplifies the mental and physical health challenges that so many Australians are facing.

‘For so many of us, our local fitness club is where we go to escape, connect and feel better. 

‘The urgent reopening of all health, fitness and wellness services is an important proactive step to improve the physical, mental and immune health of Australians.’  

Mr Ashley’s comments came after Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said returning to the gym would pose less of a risk than a visit to the pub due to clear-cut protocols protecting members’ safety. 

Mr Elvish referred to the premier’s comment that gyms are high-risk because of touch points but argued it is only the case when thorough cleaning is not conducted.

Pictured: An empty Fitness Playground gym during the coronavirus pandemic

Pictured: An empty Fitness Playground gym during the coronavirus pandemic

Mr Ashley's comments came after Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said returning to the gym would pose less of a risk than a visit to the pub due to clear-cut protocols protecting members' safety

Mr Ashley’s comments came after Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said returning to the gym would pose less of a risk than a visit to the pub due to clear-cut protocols protecting members’ safety 

‘If the gyms follow the protocols, we believe exercising in the gyms is not high risk,’ he said.

The protocols include disabling equipment to ensure social distancing, limiting members inside venues and increased sanitising. 

Unlike beauty salons and restaurants, Mr Elvish said gyms already have electronic monitoring implemented, which would allow them to track members if a coroanvirus outbreak occurred.

WHEN GYMS WILL OPEN IN YOUR STATE

All gyms will be initially open subject to social distancing limits and/or restrictions on numbers which may vary in your state

New South Wales: No date set

Queensland: Expected on June 13 with up to 20 patrons at a time

Victoria: June 22

South Australia: June 1

Tasmania: June 15

ACT: May 29

Western Australia: Opened on May 18

Northern Territory: Opened on May 15  

‘We effectively have the COVID19 app across our gyms,’ he said.

‘I don’t think the government understands the environment.’

Mr Elvish explained it is ‘not a one shoe fits all’ situation as the bans on gyms also impact small yoga and Pilates studios and leisure centres.

In a Fitness Australia statement on Saturday, Mr Elvish said the ‘Ruby Princess virus outbreak started in the restaurants, not the gym’.

‘Australia’s fitness industry is a $3billion a year industry that employs more than 35,000 staff in over 5,000 facilities and businesses – the vast majority of which are on the eastern seaboard.

‘Gym owners, operators and the industry are extremely frustrated that cafes, pubs, restaurants and hotels appear to be being given relaxed concessions.’

Mr Elvish said there is a ‘misguided belief’ that gyms are high-risk for a coronavirus outbreak.

‘Because of the misguided belief gyms are high risk, the industry has a greater incentive than any other industry to make sure their facility and staff follow and enforce a strict COVID Safety Plan,’ he said.

Mr Ashley said he appreciates the need to restart the economy but the health of Australians should be put first. Pictured: Two women exercise at a Fitness Playground gym before COVID-19 restrictions

Mr Ashley said he appreciates the need to restart the economy but the health of Australians should be put first. Pictured: Two women exercise at a Fitness Playground gym before COVID-19 restrictions

‘We have done this to demonstrate the industry is willing, and ready, to do whatever it takes to reopen and provide the community with the confidence their health and safety is protected in a gym environment.

‘All our operators understand the health and commercial implications of not getting it right, which is why there is so much focus on having a robust plan.’

Gyms, pools and other fitness centres fall into stage two of the Federal Government’s three-step plan to restart Australia.

In the Northern Territory they reopened on May 15 – the same day as pubs and cafes – and in Western Australia on May 18.

The ACT announced they will ease measures on May 29, while Victoria and South Australia plan to lift fitness restrictions on June 1. Tasmania has indicated they will follow suit on June 15.

All gyms are subject to social distancing limits and restrictions on numbers which vary depending on the state or territory.       

HOW GYMS WILL PROTECT YOU FROM COVID-19 

1. PHYSICAL DISTANCING

Restrict the number of customers allowed in specified areas

Ask customers to leave the premises once they have completed their workout session

Direct staff and customers to keep 1.5 metres of distance between people

Remove or cordon off common areas and put out signs 

The layout of the gym floor and specific workout areas should be reviewed to enable customers and staff to keep at least 1.5 metres apart while exercising

2. HYGIENE

All fitness facilities will require regular cleaning per Safe Work Australia recommendations for cleaning of workplaces 

3. STAY AT HOME IF UNWELL

Public health authorities advise all people to stay at home if they are unwell or display any symptoms of COVID-19 infection 

4. CONTACT TRACING

Maintain a Register of Attendance (sign-in) either digitally or manually of all persons on their site 

Establish protocols for providing government authorities with member access logs for the purposes of contact-tracing with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 

SOURCE: Fitness Australia – Framework for Safely Operating a Fitness Facility 

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