On Friday the 12th of June, the South Australian Government announced that it would be introducing a stage 2.5 of eased restrictions. This new stage will come into effect on Friday the 19th of June. Among the easing restrictions will be an increase on attendance venue such as pubs, clubs and open-use gyms to 75 patrons per room and 300 per venue. Further to this, gambling and attendance at large sporting events has also been put on the table.
During the press conference on Friday afternoon South Australian Chief Public Health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier highlighted specific concerns of the Transition Committee relating to fitness classes. During her address, Professor Spurrier referenced “data from overseas” pointing towards a “very high transmission rate” in a fitness class settings.
Fitness Australia would like to point out that the only evidence currently available anywhere in the world to suggest an increased risk for fitness classes comes via an unreviewed research letter from East Asia in which data was gathered during the peak of the virus where community transmission was widespread throughout this region. No precautions were taken to prevent the spread of the disease within these classes (e.g. hygiene, distancing, contact tracing etc.) with some classes conducted with up to 22 people in a 60m2 space (2.7m2 per person).
Fitness Australia remains adamant that this limited piece of research should not be used as the only source evidence to support the stronger restrictions on fitness classes.
In contrast to this view, Fitness Australia would also like to point out that many regions closer to home have seen the seamless re-introducing of fitness classes through implementing appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols in recent times.
On the 13th of May New Zealand gyms were able to operate fitness classes with 4m2 per person. Unlike South Australia, New Zealand still had active and new cases being recorded during this time. However, successful implementation of social distancing and hygiene protocols lead to no cases of COVID-19 transition in fitness classes within New Zealand.
On the 18th of May, Western Australia re-opened gyms for classes only. This opposing approach allowed for up to 20 people in a class with 4m2 per person. All other access to gyms remained prohibited at this time. The outcome of this approach was again no recorded cases of transition in fitness classes in Western Australia at any time. This was despite WA still having active cases of COVID-19 during this period.
South Australian Regional Manager Steve Grace believes a more collaborative approach is needed to ensure that the information provided to the authorities is interpreted correctly.
Mr Grace said:
“Professor Spurrier made mention of the QLD model of 7m2 for fitness classes which we developed through rigorous consultation with health professionals and through data gathered from the World Health Organisation, IHRSA, UK Active, Exercise NZ and others.”
“However, what was not mentioned was the fact that 7m2 was suggested as a bare minimum for fitness classes and that we believe the current approach of capping classes at 10 is completely unnecessary. Therefore, it’s our recommendation that these caps are removed immediately and that the 7m2 requirement be implemented as a fair and justified alternative for the short-term. Given the current climate in South Australia, these restrictions should also be eased further come stage 3.”
Earlier this morning, Fitness Australia CEO wrote to Professor Spurrier and high ranking members of the South Australian Police to request a meeting and urge them to reconsider their position on fitness classes.
As is stands, there are no active cases of COVID-19 in South Australia, with no cases of community transition since March of this year.
Stay tuned for further updates.