Uncertainty over whether staff need to be vaccinated for when gyms and fitness facilities reopen in NSW - currently forecast to occur on 11th October – has led Fitness Australia to question the “ambiguous” situation.
In a statement released today, Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish advises “from ongoing conversations we have with the NSW Government it is our firm view that, as with members of the public, there will not be an exclusion applied for staff to enter and work from gym/yoga/Pilates etc. facilities.
“This view is reinforced by the press release issued by the then NSW Premier - Published: 9th September 2021 - that states: ‘Only fully vaccinated people and those with medical exemptions will have access to the freedoms allowed under the Reopening NSW roadmap.’
“Later in the same release mentioning specific opening restrictions;
‘Gyms and indoor recreation facilities can open under the 1 person per 4sqm rule and can offer classes for up to 20 people.’
Further, in the published government 80% roadmap fact sheet relating to restrictions that will apply at an 80% vaccination rate it states: ‘The Reopening NSW roadmap at 80%, the following freedoms will apply only to fully vaccinated adults (16+) and those with medical exemptions (staff and patrons)’.”
Elvish’s statement went on to advise “it would be nonsensical for the vaccination criteria that applies at 80% not to apply earlier at 70% when restrictions are tighter.
“We are advised that the relevant NSW Public Health Order will be published next week and in the interim recommend that all members anticipate double does vaccinations will be required for all staff and patrons.”
Gyms facing unique challenges
Earlier this week, Elvish suggested that on reopening a higher proportion of gymgoers will be unvaccinated because of their age.
Commenting on fitness facilities’ impending opening, Elvish was quoted by 9 News as saying one of the difficulties gyms were grappling with was its youthful clientele base, among which people were less likely to be vaccinated because of where they sat in the vaccine rollout.
9 News quoted Elvish as saying "one of the highest unvaccinated groups is those aged 20 to 40, but that age group also makes up the largest membership base for gyms.
"So when the total eligible population hits 70% vaccinated, gyms are probably going to only have about 50% of eligible members vaccinated."
Elvish said some gyms may therefore have viability issues with reopening until December while noting that there was also a "fairly vocal minority" in the same membership age group that were either vaccine hesitant or completely anti-vaccination.
"We were very concerned that putting the onus on a manager or a gym owner to ensure that the people coming through the door are vaccinated, without giving them any sort of protection, was going to be problematic.”
However, Elvish went on the say that comments from the NSW Government suggesting the focus would be on individual compliance were reassuring, adding "I think most people will be doing the right thing but the last thing we want is a verbal altercation degenerating into a physical altercation.
"That's why it's really important and really positive that the onus is going to be on the individual."
He concluded that gyms also had the advantage of being able to disable the swipe cards of people who were not vaccinated.
Athe beginning of September a Fitness Australia survey of its members in NSW revealed that a majority of respondents were against mandatory vaccinations for gym staff and personal trainers while also not supporting members being vaccinated for access to facilities.
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