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VIC Active considers Government’s mental health support package to be tokenistic

VIC Active considers Government’s mental health support package to be tokenistic
September 14, 2020

According to fitness industry body VIC Active, today's announcement by the Federal Government of new mental health clinics opening this week along with an earlier announcement on financial assistance to small business, is tokenistic.

VIC Active argues that ongoing closures of fitness centres and gyms are damaging the mental health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Victorians, and the late November target for reopening is not realistic and likely to exacerbate the ongoing health crisis.  

VIC Active spokesman Tim Schleiger advised that both the new clinics and the financial assistance were merely "band aid solutions" that would not mitigate long term problems adding “the best way to get Victorians back on track is to reopen fitness facilities with COVID-safe plans; the 40,000 fitness and wellbeing professionals across the state are ready, willing and able to get the community on the road to recovery.

“The fact that the (Federal) Government is opening pop-up mental health clinics confirms the VIC Active position that Victoria is in the midst of a physical and mental health crisis.

“We know that Lifeline logged a record day for inbound calls last week and hospital data shows that mental health presentations have spiked 6% across the board in recent weeks.   

“There have been almost a million engagements on Beyond Blue’s online forums. And that only reflects those who are actively seeking treatment – thousands likely will be suffering alone and in silence.  

Schleiger adds “Fitness centres are integral to maintaining physical and mental wellbeing and so it’s now critical that people can be allowed to access them in a responsible and COVID-safe way.

“Gyms were already highly regulated, clean and sanitary environments prior to the pandemic. All VIC Active members have COVID-Safe plans in place which increase the level of safety. The suggestion that fitness centres are high risk is simply wrong.”

Schleiger pointed to data collected in NSW by Fitness Australia that revealed that from more than 7.3 million check-ins at gyms in an eight-week period after lockdowns lifted on 14th June, there was no evidence of any COVID transmission.

He added that the financial assistance on offer may help fitness centres tread water, but only operating in a COVID-safe way would help both businesses and people struggling to stay positive.  

Schleiger highlights “this is now the sixth month of the pandemic restrictions. It’s gone on long enough and we have learned a lot about the way the virus behaves and how we can manage it.

“It makes no sense not to make use of what we have learned and get things moving in a safe way. Fitness centres are a perfect embodiment of that – we know how we can manage the situation and we’re proven to be safe.

“The health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Victorians relies on it.

“We need urgent, meaningful engagement with the Government’s Health advisory group so that they are properly informed as to the COVID safety of fitness facilities and can get them open quickly for the benefit of the Victorian community.

“We have all the empirical data the Government needs and are eager to assist the Government reach sound scientific conclusions as part of the State’s roadmap to recovery.”   

VIC Active also notes that the average infection case load is 4.1 in regional Victoria – well below Victorian Premier Danial Andrews’ safe threshold.  Schleiger said there is no argument on public health or safety grounds not to reopen gyms in regional Victoria now.

So far, more than 100 owners, comprising 400 sites and representing over 4,000 staff and 300,000 members have joined VIC Active, with all operators, suppliers and industry groups urged to join. High profile members include the Victorian operators of major fitness networks including F45 and Body Fit Training.

Image courtesy of F45.

Related Articles

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1st September 2020 - Independent gym owners urge Victorian Government to allow gyms to re-open when Stage 4 restrictions conclude

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

21st August 2020 - Fitness Australia secures support for exercise to be classed as an ‘essential service’ from Victorian shadow sport minister

19th August 2020 - Victorian Chief Health Officer lifts restrictions on Melbourne residents driving to exercise

19th August 2020 - FITREC highlights ‘heartbreaking’ impact of Victoria’s Coronavirus lockdown

13th August 2020 - Campaign launched to increase sport and recreation participation throughout western Victoria

2nd August 2020 - Activities halted and facilities closed as Victorian Government introduces Stage four Coronavirus lockdown in Melbourne

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