Following comments from New South Wales Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro yesterday stating he’s “confident” gyms and fitness centres will reopen in coming weeks, the industry’s peak association is calling for governments to put the health and wellbeing of Australians above a drink at the pub.
Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish is calling for state governments to allow gyms to open sooner than pubs and restaurants, saying a robust COVID Safety Plan Framework for the industry was already in place to ensure the health and safety of Australia’s 4 million gym users.
Mr Elvish said:
“Australia’s fitness industry is a $3 billion 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, this is contrary to the Prime Minister’s national strategy launched two weeks ago and without proper safety plans in place.”
“Fitness Australia this week released a COVID Safety Plan Framework, developed in conjunction with, and endorsed by, Occupational and Environment Physician Dr Andrea James. The Framework far exceeds any of the current government guidelines and aligns with Safe Work Australia and Australian Institute of Sport recommendations.”
“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.”
“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.”
Mr Elvish said Fitness Australia has been engaging with relevant state government authorities to get a ‘stamp of approval’ for the Framework, highlighting a one size fits all approach from key departments was not the right approach.
Mr Elvish said:
“We have been endeavouring to engage productively. However, with the exception of Queensland, we are experiencing some difficulties in having them understand the diverse range of exercise options available throughout the industry.”
“Gyms as a term includes small yoga and Pilates studios, boutique gyms, 24-hour facilities, large multi- function facilities and leisure centres that include pools, childcares and in some cases cafes. Simply grouping the industry into a one size fits all approach, ignoring significant ops differences is causing confusion and uncertainty for operators and small business owners.”
Mr Elvish said many Fitness Australia members, in line with the organisation’s guidelines, have already put their own strict protocols in place to enforce social distancing and hygiene.
Mr Elvish said:
“Following the release of our COVID Safety Plan Framework, we’ve had business members develop their own protocols, including site and facility plans to limit the number of people. In many cases these plans are double 4 square metres per person – can the same be said for pubs and clubs?”
“Putting the health and wellbeing of Australians first has never been more important. It’s essential the government prioritises this before the long-term economic cost and mental health impacts of COVID-19 become greater.”
The Fitness Australia COVID Safety Plan framework is available at fitness.org.au/covidsafe and provides general considerations for all businesses and operators in the fitness industry. The COVID Safety Plan Checklist will be provided exclusively Fitness Australia members by the end of May.