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Northern Territory lockdown easing allows Darwin Festival to reopen but keep gyms closed
The Northern Territory Government has announced the easing of lockdown measures, but while hairdressers, hospitality establishments and the Darwin Festival can reopen, fitness facilities will shut for at least another week.
The lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions will allow people to travel freely in the region while some restrictions, including the wearing of masks, will remain in place for another week.
As a result, the Darwin Festival has reopened, an event which will attract thousands into the CBD, although organisers say dancing and singing will not be permitted but gyms remain closed.
The decision has baffled gym owners, who say their stringent cleaning regimes and social distancing requirements will keep people safe.
Fitness Works owner Chloe Scheppard said she was "really disappointed" to hear the news, telling the ABC
"Why are clubs and pubs allowed to reopen and we're not? … we have more checks and balances than them, no one's coming in inebriated, forgetting to wear their mask or to social distance.
"It just doesn't make any sense."
Scheppard said her gym is able to track the comings and goings of attendees, adding another layer of protection, explaining “we know every person who comes into the business we can track them, we have security cameras we have cleaning in place, we're able to social distance all the time
However, at a press conference on Thursday, Northern Territory Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie said the main reason indoor fitness centres would need to stay closed for now was because of "fomites" (objects likely to carry and transmit infection).
Dr Heggie said gyms had a lot of fomites (such as gym equipment) which were typically shared, making the risk of transmission high despite cleaning regimes.
University of Queensland Professor of Medicine Paul Griffin said Dr Heggie's call was "not unreasonable" considering how highly infectious the Delta strain had proven to be.
Professor Griffin said indoor gyms were often confined places with "relatively poor ventilation" and lots of contact surfaces, noting "even with really good cleaning protocols it's hard to be completely reassured that every touch point in the entire venue is sufficiently clean that transmission is addressed.”
Professor Griffin said because gyms were used for strenuous exercise, people often sweated heavily and were prone to removing or adjusting their masks while doing so, which increased the risk of transmission.
The Darwin Festival, which restarted as of yesterday, has updated its COVID-19 safety plan in line with new regulations.
Darwin Festival Artistic Director Felix Preval said the team was "incredibly excited" to be able to present the final three nights of the event.
Preval told the ABC “miraculously, we have been able to reprogram almost all of the final performances across those final three days.”
Image: The Aurora Spiegeltent at the Darwin Festival.
20th August 2021 - Northern Territory events remain an economic driver
11th February 2021 - Darwin Entertainment Centre stages 89 performances since July reopening
17th September 2020 - Darwin to host Australia’s first post-Coronavirus live concert
1st March 2021 - Parrtjima - a Festival in Light announces full program for 2021
19th August 2021 - Fitness clubs shut and with no ‘take away’ for 30% of days since March 2020
18th August 2021 - Industry resigned to ongoing lockdown closures
29th July 2021 - Fitness Australia advises of concessions achieved for gym reopenings
3rd July 2021 - Fitness Australia invites input on industry trends survey
6th August 2021 - New and expanded lockdowns impact more than half of Australia
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