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Hong Kong gym’s link to COVID-19 cluster shows need for ongoing safety and hygiene commitment

Hong Kong gym’s link to COVID-19 cluster shows need for ongoing safety and hygiene commitment
March 29, 2021

The recent indication that a fitness club in Hong Kong has been the source of a COVID-19 outbreak is emerging as a matter of concern for gym operators and the exercise industry worldwide.

Despite multiple studies showing that COVID-19 cases traced back to fitness clubs are extremely low, Ursus Fitness in Hong Kong’s Sai Ying Pun district is associated with a cluster of Coronavirus infections among office workers from nearby companies, with cases among members, staff and close contacts of each traced back to the gym.

Gyms in Hong Hong reopened on 18th February and some have been enforcing mask-wearing as a way to control COVID-19, with members obliged to use a ‘LeaveHomeSafe’ tracing app each time they enter the gym.

While in gyms, classes have been limited to four people, including the trainer, per studio.

In response to the outbreak, the Hong Kong Government made mask-wearing in gyms mandatory in gyms from Thursday 11th March and, as of Friday 12th March, authorities ordered all 50,000 fitness industry workers in the administrative region to undergo mandatory testing.

In common with many countries, the Hong Kong Government is also now mandating partitions and the spacing of equipment at 1.5 metre.

In addition, some Hong Kong gyms are temporarily banning members and personal trainers who frequent more than one gym, while others are stocking up on rapid test kits to safeguard customers.

Many have closed temporarily for deep cleaning and to get employees screened.

Mindful that a Coronavirus outbreak within a gym has global implications, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has emphasised the importance of gym operators signing up to and abiding by its ‘Active & Safe Commitment’, an IHRSA initiative to show the industry’s commitment to providing a safe place to work out. IHRSA is a trade association for commercial health clubs, but any type of fitness facility can sign the commitment and promote it to their members.

In a statement, IHRSA interim President and Chief Executive, Brent Darden advised “the Active & Safe Commitment is a public expression of our highest values as an industry.

“I strongly encourage every health club operator to sign the commitment, boldly stand united with fellow operators across the industry, and confidently proclaim health clubs as vital community resources during these challenging times.”

Club operators who sign the Active & Safe Commitment promise they are following industry best practices in physical distancing and mitigation measures related to COVID-19; employee and member safety protocols; cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting; and contact tracing.

Click here for more information about IHRSA’s safety protocols.

Image used for illustrative purposes.

About the author

Karen Sweaney

Editor, Australasian Leisure Management

Artist, geoscientist and specialist writer on the leisure industry, Karen Sweaney is Editor of Australasian Leisure Management. Based in Sydney, Australia, her specific areas of interest include the arts, entertainment, the environment, fitness, tourism and wellness.

She has degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney and Geological Oceanography from UNSW.

Read more from this author

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