Johannesburg – Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has submitted proposals by the fitness and health industry to the Department of Health after he met with the sector last week.
This was confirmed by the Department of Sports, Art and Culture in responses to IOL late on Tuesday.
This week, Virgin Active announced it would be laying off more than 3 000 staff members as a result of gyms being closed since late March. The company has not collected any membership subscriptions since the beginning of the lockdown in March, and resolved it would assist employees with a 25% contribution towards their salaries during the period of lockdown closure.
This has caused much strain for the financial well-being of employees in the sector.
Mthethwa’s spokesperson, Masechaba Khumalo, said the minister met with the sector last week and received plans about how gyms would potentially operate in a Covid-19 environment.
She said the minister was also aware of the financial challenges that the sector and it's employees were under.
“The department is aware of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the country as a whole and at this stage our focus is trying to motivate to get the industry to open without a risk of increasing the spread of the virus, so that the economy can benefit.
“This is a high risk sector and the department needs to also balance the issue of health and saving lives,” said Khumalo.
She said government had made no commitments or promises regarding the reopening of gyms, but had requested plans, which had since been received, perused and shared with the Health Department.
“The measures taken are what is expected in terms of the Health protocols with regard to Covid-19 .
“There was no expectation created by the Department that permission would be provided. The department advised the industry to submit their plans for analysis and assessment. However, gyms and fitness centres are still closed as per regulations.
“We can confirm that the sector have submitted their plans, which are currently going through the approval channels and are now sitting with health,” said Khumalo.
When asked if the government had any particular concerns about the plans submitted, she said the assessment process was still under way and added the department had yet to provide any relief to the sector.