Melbourne is going through a rough patch. The Victorian city is considered the epicentre of virus cases in Australia – potentially detrimental to its chances of winning the world’s most liveable city award – but good news is on the horizon, as restrictions are set to ease from Stage 4 to Stage 3 following a drop in cases.
Or at least, that’s the plan. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews will deliver a roadmap for Victoria’s relaxation of lockdown laws on September 13th, and it’s still possible that Stage 4 restrictions will remain in place until the situation is deemed safe enough for Victoria residents to regain some of their freedom.
However, if Victoria does move to Stage 3, there is still one industry that will remain off-limits: gyms and personal training. It’s a restriction that Australian fitness body Fitness Australia believes should be reconsidered immediately.
Currently, health and fitness facilities in Victoria aren’t deemed to be an ‘essential’ service. Instead, they’re placed into the ‘physical recreational facilities’ category, meaning, for now, doors to everything from studios and fitness centres to boxing gyms have to remain firmly closed. Fitness Australia begs to differ, claiming the exercise and community experienced by gym-members is paramount to their mental – as well as physical – health and wellbeing.
Following his comments urging the Australian government to allow safe exercise to continue during the nationwide lockdown, Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish is now requesting the Victorian Government reclassify health and fitness facilities as “‘Health and Fitness Centres’ in the Restricted Activity Directions and be allowed to operate in the same way as other essential services such as Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Dietetics and Mental Health Services.”
Adding to his reasoning, Mr Elvish said, “For many people in our community, especially those managing a range of physical and mental health issues, going to the gym, completing regular sessions with a personal trainer or participating in a live virtual class are seen as an essential support service.”
He goes on to question why health centres can’t reopen, yet customer service businesses, such as online order packing warehouses, can.
Citing research carried out by Fitness Australia that claims there have been more than 6.26 million check-ins across 423 gyms in New South Wales since restrictions eased on the 13th June, Mr Elvish said: “during that same period there had been zero cases of reported community transmission in a gym.”
“Health and fitness centres are low risk when it comes to COVID-19 and the industry is willing to do whatever it takes to provide a safe and hygienic envrionment for members and employees.”
“Since the beginning of [the pandemic], Fitness Australia has been focused on promoting the important role the fitness industry plays in the overall health of our nation.”
“We are not part of the problem; we are actually part of the solution to getting more Australians more active more often and help prevent long-term lifestyle-related disease.”
It seems for now at least, until any action (if any) is taken to reclassify health and fitness facilities, Victorians will have to continue relying on food and booze to get through their stress-inducing lockdown days.