Fitness fanatics could return to gyms across the country as early as next week.
The fitness industry in South Africa say they are pushing hard to get government to allow for the reopening of gyms across the country, and could reopen as early as July 1.
Two of South Africa’s most popular gym groups, Planet Fitness and Virgin Active., say they are ready to reopen their doors having ensured that all safety and social distancing measures have been put in place ahead of welcoming back members.
Gillian Elson, the head of marketing at Planet Fitness, says they’ve been in constant communication with government and are hopeful of a return as soon as possible. “We know that there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment around when gym’s will be permitted to open,” said Elson
“Planet Fitness has to date not been given any concrete indication by government as to when we can open but are pushing hard to get government to agree to allow us to open during Advanced Level 3 or at least by the beginning of July.”
Elson says the gym group has been working around the clock to ensure that they are ready for a safe return, and are looking forward to welcoming members to all of its branches across the country.
“Planet Fitness are ready to jump back into business and have been working around the clock to ensure that when we are given the green light from government that we are able to welcome our members back safely,” says Eslon.
“We believe that the protocols that we are implementing are in line with benchmark best practices from around the world including WHO (World Health Organisation) as well as learnings from other countries who have opened up their gyms in the early stages of their lockdown re opening.”
The gym says they are following strict safety and social distancing protocols to ensure all members are safe when they return.
“Planet Fitness are following global benchmark best practices to enhance our approach in ensuring that our members can train safely when they return.”
“We have a pre-access station where members will be met by a qualified Nurse or Covid-19 compliance officer and will be required to have their temperature taken, and meet compliance requirements before being permitted to enter the club.”
Elson added that temperature testing of staff and members will be done upon entering the clubs, and masks will be compulsory when entering the clubs.
“Premium Grade of 70 percent or more alcohol-based sanitizer and disinfectant products will be provided at the pre access station and additional sanitising stations throughout the Clubs for member’s use.”
Numbers will also be limited during each session at all of Planet Fitness’s branches.
“Numbers will be limited according to club size and government regulation. The international benchmark is 6m2 per person and we are going above international standard of 10m2 per person.”
“Club size must be taken into account and cannot be a one size fits all approach. We have also taken additional measures by ensuring that members tag themselves into the club.”
Elson says they will also have additional staff on the floor to sanitize the equipment and other areas continually throughout the day, particularly after use.
“We are conducting additional deep cleaning of the club and of our equipment daily. Only every fourth locker in the change rooms will be in use – all other lockers will be disabled.”
“We will also be hosting a pre-opening webinar before we open our clubs, to ensure that members are educated on what the requirements will be when we welcome that back to the clubs”
The gym group have also followed strict social distancing measures.
“We will have reduced the numbers of attendees to our group classes which will have strict social distancing measures in place through markings on the floor.”
“We have already moved equipment out of the club to ensure the required distance between members that are training on the equipment.”
Elson also confirmed that sauna’s at all of its branches will be closed for now.
“We have not received guidance from government yet on the use of showers and will comply with guidance from government.”
“Sauna’s will not be open, however, we will allow the pools to be open with strict guidelines to access.”
While Elson says they are hopeful of reopening soon, the gym group feels they have been unfairly overlooked by government.
Religious places of worship as well as restaurants and salons and places of entertainment such as casinos have been given the go ahead to reopen by government while gyms still await approval.
‘We believe that we have been unfairly overlooked by government,” says Elson.
“We believe that we are one of the safest industries with all the extensive measures that we are taking. It is unfair that restaurants, airlines, hairdressers are permitted to open ahead of us.”
‘It makes absolutely no sence to keep the fitness industry closed, when restaurants will be permitted to operate with patrons not having to wear masks, and hairdressers are allowed to operate.’
“One life lost is one too many, but we know that we are one of the safest places to visit.” Virgin Active say they too are ready to reopen all of their branches across the country. “Virgin Active has engaged government but do not as yet have an opening date.”
The financial impact has been extensive but we remain confident that our discussions and collaboration with government, speaking on behalf of the broader fitness industry and establishing protocols on which the industry can expect to open, will bear success,’ said a Virgin Active spokesperson.
“The re-opening of our clubs in international territories, such as Italy, the UK and Asia, allows us to benchmark international best practice and apply protocols locally.
We engaged early on and are certain we can comply with the occupational hygiene standards that will be required.”
“Digital transformation has been fast-tracked to steer our business through the reality that the pandemic has presented.”
Virgin Active says their focus has been on keeping the member experience at the centre of all their changes.
“We responded to lockdown restrictions by ensuring our members still had access to a wide variety of workouts in the online space, developing www.virginactive.coach, which has more than 200 workouts available to members.” “Workout content is still shared daily with members of the public on the Virgin Active social channels.”
The gym group says they have also extensively surveyed members to understand their willingness to return to their club.
“We also wanted to understand what we would need to take into account to give them that level of comfort.” “There has been an overwhelming indication that our members will join us once we open with the measures we have outlined below. Working out at a gym gives you an added level of accountability and sociability that may have been lacking during our closure.”
‘We do see our relationship with members and staff as one of co-responsibility to ensure social distancing and hygiene requirements are maintained in a shared space.”
The club say they have various safety and social distancing measures in place and are ready to reopen as soon as possible.
Measures include a team dedicated to hygiene, ready to assist, temperature checks and a quick questionnaire on arrival, contactless access, and continuous capacity monitoring.
“Our large, spacious clubs also allow for easy social distancing, further aided by floor markings throughout the clubs.”
“We have fresh filtered air circulated on high frequency for increased ventilation and a dedicated health and hygiene team who follow hospital-grade cleaning protocols for sanitisation and disinfection.Hand sanitiser, disinfectant spay and paper towel are also in plentiful supply.”
They have also made sure their equipment is well spaced to ensure social distancing .
“The equipment has been spaced to allow social distance and the capacity of group classes will be decreased.” “All classes are 100% bookable on the app and you will need to book beforehand to participate.”
Virgin Active has also confirmed that certain facilities such as the Club V, sauna and steam rooms will remain closed until further notice.