These safety measures include spacing out machinery, shutting down water fountains and shower facilities, and providing sanitiser for people to wipe down the equipment before use.
The national cabinet three-step roadmap to reopening the economy announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison just over three weeks ago recommends indoor gyms open for 20 people in step two, while pubs remain shut until step three.
However, the NSW government is letting pubs, cafes and restaurants serve up to 50 customers from Monday, and Premier Gladys Berejiklian said last week there was no timeframe for gyms to reopen given the health risks.
Fitness Australia has made its case to NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and NSW Health. From Monday it will help kick off a major campaign, calling for trainers and gym lovers to take to social media with the hashtags #exerciseismedicine and #gymsaresafe.
Mr Elvish said there were 1.4 million gym members in NSW alone and the sector employed 10,500 people. The industry body is also backing a Change.org petition started by a Newcastle-based personal trainer that has more than 24,000 signatures.
Billy Kokkinis, owner of City Gym in Darlinghurst, said the facility had been refurbished, with extra distancing and hygiene measures. He would love to reopen as soon as possible; failing that, he wanted more information to help him plan.
“We’re getting a lot of people knocking on the door, wanting to come in and train and not handling the situation very well,” Mr Kokkinis said.
“We’re getting a lot of emails and phone calls from people saying ‘please, can I come and have a workout, I’m not doing well at home’, and it’s just heartbreaking.”
Justin Ashley, owner of Fitness Playground in Newtown, Marrickville and Surry Hills, said it was time to treat physical and mental health as seriously as economic activity.
“The government has spoken at length about mental health,” Mr Ashley said. “Following this, institutions that support gambling and alcoholism were allowed to open for trade shortly after, while health and fitness facilities remain closed.”
A NSW Health spokesperson said “intense physical exercise in densely populated sports facilities could increase risk of infection” and pointed to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for evidence of COVID-19 transmission in gyms.
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an epidemiologist at UNSW, backed the decision to keep big, traditional gyms closed.
“The 1.5-metre or even the two-metre rule is old science,” she said. “There is new science to show that [respiratory] particles can move up to two metres in two seconds and six metres in five seconds before they hit the ground.”
However, Professor McLaws said there was no reason why personal trainers working one on one should be forced to stay outside as it got colder, nor why yoga studios should operate under the same rules as gyms.
Caitlin Fitzsimmons is a senior writer for The Sun-Herald, focusing on social affairs.
— to www.smh.com.au