Today’s announcement by Premier Daniel Andrew on the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria failed to recognise the important role exercise and access to fitness facilities has on the mental and physical health of people living across the state.
Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said the mental and physical health of Victorians has suffered greatly during the Stage 4 lockdowns but the government seemed more concerned about giving people the chance to dine out or shop than giving Victorians access to fitness facilities and training options.
“As an industry we are extremely disappointed and frustrated that gyms have been overlooked in today’s announcement outlining the Step 3 restrictions for regional Victoria. This is particularly disappointing given Fitness Australia thought it had been in meaningful consultation with the Department committee tasked with developing reopening protocols for different industries,” Mr Elvish said
“Clearly the government’s commitment to consultation is only lip service. In every other state we have had constructive engagement that has led to the development and implementation of CovidSafe protocols for the safe reopening of gyms; the efficacy of these is indisputable.
“The unique role and value of Victoria’s fitness sector – and its hundreds of small businesses and employees – has to the state’s health and economy must not be underestimated. We simply cannot allow the facilities at the heart of our communities to face longer than necessary closures.
“Gyms are not high risk. We again call on Premier Andrews or Professor Sutton to provide us with evidence we have been asking for since March to support this view. It is simply untrue and unfounded and is leaving people at greater long-term risk of lifestyle related disease.”
“How can a gym environment, where social distancing, strict hygiene measures and contact tracing can be monitored, be considered a higher risk than cafes and restaurants where you have the broader community gathering in a social setting without formal procedures? We know from evidence in other states that many of the transmission clusters have taken place in hospitality or retail venues,” Mr Elvish said.
Fitness Australia has been strongly advocating for the safe reopening of gyms in Victoria to help people maintain and manage their mental health and ensure the livelihoods of those who work in the industry to provide this vital service to the community.
“We firmly believe gyms can reopen safely sooner rather than later, simple as that. We know it won’t be business as usual but 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,” Mr Elvish said.
“How is it logical that hospitality can reopen with a maximum of 20 people and 4sqm per person but the fitness industry, who has proposed 8sqm per person, cannot?
“Recent Fitness Australia research found there was more than 7.31 million check-ins across 546 gyms in the first eight weeks after they reopened in NSW on 13 June. During that same period, there had been zero cases of reported community transmission in a gym.”
“Fitness Australia has worked hard to develop robust reopening guidelines, including a COVID-Safe Plan. However, the Victorian Government has been slow to engage with the industry or not taken the time to consider how vital it is for the community to be able to access a variety of exercise and training options to help maintain mental and physical health.”
Mr Elvish said the government would be left with a costly, long-term impact as the mental and physical health of more Victorian’s continues to increase.
“Exercising, maintaining a regular fitness regime, doing yoga or even building strength with weights are all positive preventative activities Australians do to maintain their overall health. The cost and long-term impact an extended absence of these will have on our economy will be significant. We urge the Victorian government to engage in genuine discussions; we are part of the solution, not the problem” Mr Elvish said.
“Today’s decision must be reconsidered immediately before more people suffer.”