#GymsMustclose should be a non-negotiable in every country, says the writer. File picture: David Mark/Pixabay
#GymsMustclose should be a non-negotiable in every country, says the writer. File picture: David Mark/Pixabay

Gyms shouldn't sweat closing during the coronavirus outbreak

By Mark Keohane Time of article published Mar 20, 2020

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Several physicians interviewed globally have described gyms as “high-risk” locations for the coronavirus to spread, yet South Africa’s leading gyms Virgin Active and Planet Fitness remain defiant and they will not be closing their doors.

Education institutions are closed. Public swimming pool and picnic areas are closed. All sport events have been shut down. Any gathering of more than 100 people is illegal, as South Africa looks to combat the spread of the virus.

Gym representatives keep insisting all precautions are in place with sanitisers and educational material for members.

It simply isn’t enough. The doors have to be closed.

The gym is a mass gathering, which takes in more than 100 people, and it isn’t the sweat of each individual that is the concern - it is the cough, sneeze and touch on all areas in the gym.

Dampness is a nest for spreading germs and the surfaces in gyms are synonymous with dampness.

There is also no control over the social interaction of members or where they travel to or have travelled from.

The leadership of Virgin Active South Africa and Planet Fitness is being stubbornly ignorant and putting South Africans at risk.

Their counter argument is that people have the choice to visit the gym but there are enough people in this country whose defiance of social distancing is worn as a badge of honour.

You only have to go onto social media to realise this.

#GymsMustclose should be a non-negotiable in every country.

Several smaller and privately-owned gyms, like the Storm Centre in Cape Town, immediately recognised the danger of keeping their gym open. Their leadership has acted in an informed and educated way and they continue to offer classes online to their members at no cost.

Virgin Active has always been at the forefront of innovation and creative alternatives to challenges, but has failed itself as much as its business leaders have failed their members.

Social isolation is the one thing individuals can control, yet keeping gyms open invites the opposite in social interaction.

Ironically, Virgin Active’s staffing complement of 300-plus are being encouraged to work remotely.

Outside of the myopic defiance of Virgin Active and Planet Fitness’ leadership, nothing compares with the refusal of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to recognise the seriousness of the virus and announce an alternative to the Olympics set to open on July 24 in Tokyo, Japan. All one hears from the Olympic leadership is that it will be “business as usual”.

Every other sporting code in the world has reacted with authority and decisiveness in suspending all activity and all competitions in the hope of limiting social interaction and contributing to stifling the spread of the disease.

But pompous fools within the Olympic committee believe they and their 10000 athletes from 200-odd countries would be immune to the virus and the global spread of the virus by getting on planes, being housed in one village and competing in various locations in Japan.

Athletes across the world have demanded answers from the IOC. They want the custodians of the Olympic Committee to show strong leadership and to make a statement consistent with the rest of the world’s sporting stance.

They want to know the Olympics will be suspended with an alternative date.

The global community is reshaping the way it acts on a daily basis because of the coronavirus, and IOC decision-makers can’t be an exception at a time when there can be no exceptions.

 * Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media sport.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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