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Fitness Australia challenges Victorian Chief Health Officer’s assertion that gyms ‘cause outbreaks’

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

Fitness Australia has disputed a statement made by Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor, Brett Sutton today that gyms cause outbreaks of COVID-19.

Speaking today on the Victorian Government’s plans for easing Coronavirus lockdown measures, Professor Sutton stated that gyms are a “known high risk setting” and “cause outbreaks”.

In response, Fitness Australia, which has been behind recent lobbying for gyms to be included in initial lockdown easing, rapidly released a statement advising calling Professor Sutton’s comments as being “misinformation” adding that this “negative, unproven commentary is damaging to the industry and the health and wellbeing of all Victorians”.

Advising that Professor Sutton’s comments are not supported by any evidence, research or actual data and that the peak body has gathered data from a random sample of NSW operators to prove gyms are safe, Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish explained “today’s comments are extremely disappointing. We are urging Professor Sutton to qualify his comments that gyms are a ‘known high risk setting’ and ‘cause outbreaks’.

“These are not based on, or supported by, any data and we are calling for the Victorian Government to engage with the industry and make decisions and comments that are based on real data, not personal views.

“If Professor Sutton does have evidence to the contrary, we urge him and the Victorian Government to share it with Fitness Australia so we can make our existing and successful COVIDSafe plans for the industry even better.

“To refute this type of misinformation, last month Fitness Australia gathered our own data to prove gyms are a COVIDSafe environment when strict hygiene and social distancing measured are enforced.

“The data from across NSW showed that during an eight-week period after gyms reopened there were more than 7.31 million check-ins across 546 gyms and during that same period there were zero cases of reported community transmission in a gym. We are not aware of any cases on transmission in a gym anywhere in Australia.

“The same could not be said for restaurants or bars where cluster cases have started and spread. However, gyms are still being categorised with these and other entertainment venues and cast in a negative light.”

The Fitness Australia data was validated by electronic swipes, used by all members for access, which also provides for sophisticated contact tracing should it be required.

Fitness Australia has been strongly advocating for the safe reopening of gyms in Victoria to help people maintain and manage their mental health and ensure the livelihoods of those who work in the industry to provide this vital service to the community.

Explaining these moves, Elvish noted “we firmly believe gyms can reopen safely sooner rather than later, simple as that. We know it won’t be business as usual but we have a committed industry who is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the health and safety of members and staff so they can reopen and restart their businesses.

“Fitness Australia has worked hard to develop robust reopening guidelines, including a COVIDSafe Plan. However, the Victorian Government has not engaged with the industry or taken the time to consider how vital it is for the community to be able to access a variety of exercise and training options to help maintain mental and physical health.”

Advising that the Victorian Government would be left with a costly, long-term impact as the mental and physical health of more citizens continues to increase, Elvish concluded “exercising, maintaining a regular fitness regime, doing yoga or even building strength with weights are all positive preventative activities Australians do to maintain their overall health. The cost and long-term impact an extended absence of these will have on our economy will be significant.

“Today’s comments must be reconsidered immediately before more people suffer.”

Lower image: Fitness Australia Chief Executive Barrie Elvish.

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