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Fitness Australia asks why Victoria’s Chief Health Officer is again targeting gyms

Fitness Australia asks why Victoria’s Chief Health Officer is again targeting gyms
June 4, 2021

With gyms and fitness clubs again closed during Victoria’s latest Coronavirus lockdown, Fitness Australia has asked why Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton has “singled out’ exercise facilities for closure rather than let them remains open in order to benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of their members and the wider community.

In an open letter posing eight questions to Professor Sutton, Fitness Australia has demanded that the Chief Health Officer “advise our members of your answers to the following questions”:

Dear Professor Sutton,

Over the past 72 hours I have received numerous texts, emails and calls from both our Victorian members and non-members alike who are angry, confused, frustrated and in total despair as once again they see their chosen profession, reputation, investment, and family’s future being trashed by your fact-less decisions and associated public commentary. Without fail, every one of them has asked me why this is happening again, and yet I have no answers for them. So perhaps you can advise our members, through me, of your answers to the following questions:

1. Given international and national data demonstrates that a member of the public is five times more likely to contract the virus in an indoor hospitality venue than a health and fitness centre, Yoga or Pilates studio why are they allowed to open now when our member’s facilities are all shut?

2. Given the hospitality sector has questionable contact tracing capabilities and had no mandated QR code check-in until last Friday, whereas Fitness Australia registered health and exercise venues have had mandatory swipe entry and CCTV for many years, why is hospitality considered an acceptable public risk and health and fitness not?

3. Given hygiene has been an embedded practice for the health and fitness sector for many years, whereas in hospitality it has only recently been given the necessary COVID-19 attention, why do you now consider it is safer for the public?

4. Given you consistently, and correctly, remind Victorians of the importance of exercise in lockdown periods, why are you denying almost one million members of the community from accessing their preferred exercise activity but letting them buy a coffee/beer/wine in an indoor venue, that, let’s be honest, functions in a very mixed hygiene environment?

5. Why is Victoria unique in Australia in persisting with negative commentary on the health and fitness sector based on outdated perceptions? Similarly, why is your department unique in Australia in not engaging with the sector to develop protocols that enable Victorians to exercise safely in our member’s facilities and give some much-needed positivity to the 40,000 Victorians employed in the sector?

6. Are you aware that your own Department has acknowledged, off the record, that the COVID-Safe hygiene protocols we developed for the rest of Australia are the “Gold Standard”?

7. Are you prepared to share the data you are basing your decisions on to keep fitness facilities closed with Fitness Australia and enter into some meaningful discussions, especially around the often cited, but incorrect report of 27 cases coming from Planet Fitness Casula?

8. Are you seriously suggesting a café or bar, especially where alcohol is being served, with dubious contact tracing capabilities, 50 patrons social distancing at 4 square meters with no masks is safer for the Victorian community than a health and exercise facility with instantaneous contact tracing, mandatory mask-wearing and eight square metre social distancing?

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to being able to share your responses with our members.

Barrie Elvish
Chief Executive
Fitness Australia

Advocacy for fitness as an essential service
Having last year called for health and fitness facilities, including personal training, to be reclassified as an essential service in Victoria, Australasian Leisure Management understands Fitness Australia is to shortly renew these efforts with a high profile campaign.

In August last year, Fitness Australia's ongoing advocacy for the industry and the vital role gyms have on the long-term ealth and wellbeing of the community, saw it highlight the importance of access to a broad range of professional training options such as personal training, to help Victorians look after their mental and physical health and wellbeing.

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27th May 2021 - Fitness Australia urges locked down Victorians not to forget the importance of physical activity

27th May 2021 - Victoria Government announces seven-day lockdown

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23rd March 2021 - Fitness Australia says industry ‘continues to strengthen’ 12 months since COVID-19 shutdowns

2nd March 2021 - VIC Active continues to highlight the safety of fitness centres

24th February 2021 - Fitness Australia welcomes NSW Government’s lifting of gym class numbers to 50 people

19th February 2021 - VIC Active calls on Victorian Government to fulfill its promise of financial assistance

12th February 2021 - Fitness Australia disappointed at NSW Government’s easing of restrictions for all indoor venues except gyms

4th January 2021 - Fitness Australia calls for Federal government to introduce national plan to improve physical activity rates

1st December 2020 - Fitness Australia partners with Latrobe University to launch industry survey

23rd November 2020 - VIC Active questions remaining caps on Victorian gym operations

17th November 2020 - Fitness Australia Chief Executive questions why gyms must close but pubs can stay open

15th November 2020 - VIC Active calls for immediate unrestricted opening of Victoria’s gyms

8th November 2020 - VIC Active looks to fitness reawakening after ‘COVID-19 imposed slumber’

4th November 2020 - VIC Active questions State Government’s motives for imposing continued restrictions on Victoria’s fitness industry

29th October 2020 - Fitness Australia advise that risk of infection in a gym is less than ‘one in a million’

16th October 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish maintains calls for gyms to open in regional Victoria

12th October 2020 - Fitness Australia provides update on meeting with Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer

8th October 2020 - Fitness Australia releases research showing impact of lockdown gym closures

25th September 2020 - Fitness Australia asserts there is no clear evidence gyms spread COVID-19

21st September 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish to meet with Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer to urge gym reopening

14th September 2020 - Fitness Australia calls for one-on-one training to be allowed under Victoria’s new outdoor exercise restrictions

10th September 2020 - Fitness Australia confirms Melbourne gyms to reopen from 26th October

6th September 2020 - Fitness Australia challenges Victorian Chief Health Officer’s assertion that gyms ‘cause outbreaks’

30th August 2020 - Fitness Australia calls for Victorian Government to reclassify health and fitness facilities as an ‘essential service’ 

16th July 2020 - Planet Fitness takes ‘vigorous steps’ to limit community transmission of Coronavirus


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