Announcements today explaining the easing of Coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne and regional Victoria have seen the state’s Chief Health Officer repeat discredited claims that fitness facilities are “high-risk” locations.
Speaking at the announcements that apply broadly similar Coronavirus easing rules for gyms, aquatic facilities, entertainment venues and brothels, Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said gyms would remain closed as they were “high-risk” venues, noting “gyms are a high-risk environment. I understand, again, the pain for those gym owners.”
Repeating claims that he first made last year but which have since been proven incorrect, Professor Sutton stated “we’ve had significant outbreaks in gyms through the second wave in Victoria. I think we had 27 cases in a gym.
“And international experience suggests that even when you’ve got high levels of testing, including for some gyms where they test people before they come into the gym, that the combination of indoor settings, closed environments, people exerting themselves, really has significant opportunity for spread.
However, Professor Sutton said he didn’t expect gyms to remain closed for long, adding “I don’t expect gyms to be closed for a long time from now on,” he said. “I am asking gyms to make that sacrifice for a further week as we assess the epidemiology.
“At this juncture, closure is the appropriate measure, that’s the view of the public health team.”
However, he did acknowledge that Melbourne’s weather wasn’t helping the cause.
“To the extent that people can exercise at the moment outdoors - and it is not a pleasant week for that and I recognise that - that is the safest thing to do. It is 20 times safer to be outdoors.”
After Professor Sutton made similar claims in September last year, Fitness Australia labelled his 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 were not supported by any evidence, research or actual data, Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish stated “(these) 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.”
Image: Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton. Credit: Department of Health and Human Services Victoria.
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