EXTENDED CLOSURE WILL RESULT IN INCREASED HEALTH RISKS FOR ONTARIANS, SMALL BUSINESS BANKRUPTCIES AND PERMANENT JOB LOSSES.
The Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) Ontario Coalition is extremely disappointed in the provincial COVID-19 Roadmap to Reopen schedule as announced last Thursday. If fitness facilities remain closed for much longer the sector will be crippled by massive permanent closures and job losses.
The current schedule suggests indoor fitness will not be permitted to reopen until August, a decision that is not only devastating to hundreds of Ontario fitness businesses and thousands of employees but to the millions of Ontarians who are desperate to return to their gym for both physical and mental health reasons.
“The decision to leave gyms and fitness facilities closed until the last stage of reopening just doesn’t make sense. During the last 14 months, when we were permitted to be open, we hosted more than 15 million safe workouts. We’ve proven our ability to operate safely and responsibly,” said FIC Ontario lead Nick Corneil. “Our industry is desperate to re-open and millions of Ontarians need to get back to their workout routines to support their overall health.”
On May 19th the Ontario chapter of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada joined other leaders in the fitness industry to communicate the dire circumstances they are facing through an online media event. Since then, the campaign website www.getmovingagain.ca and accompanying online petition has garnered over 13,000 signatures of support.
FIC is imploring the government to reconsider its position, and allow gyms to reopen as quickly as possible, to simultaneously save Ontario’s fitness industry and protect the health and well-being of Ontarians. The coalition has 3 clear asks for government:
1. Follow science, not speculation and let evidence-based data guide decisions. Fitness clubs, operated under safe conditions, are safe. Similar to park playgrounds, there is no data that shows fitness clubs and gyms are a significant source of COVID-19 outbreaks. Just the opposite: when Ontario fitness facilities were allowed to operate, the industry hosted millions of safe workouts.
2. Give health and fitness experts a seat at the table when planning re-openings. Fitness professionals have deep experience and expertise and can help officials make informed, evidence-based decisions about safely reopening and operating fitness clubs. The industry wants to work with the government to ensure Ontarians are protected and the industry can survive. To date the industry has not been consulted on any decisions government has made.
3. Base capacity restrictions on operating space and open fitness facilities sooner. Allow gyms and studios to safely open based on a percentage of their space – just like other industries. Personal training can be done safely or more than current allied health services. Gyms can operate with mandated masks and distancing, so there is no reason not to have them open in Step 1 at 15% like other non-essential retail.
Due to pandemic restrictions, fitness facilities in Ontario are in serious financial trouble. Despite being eligible for wage and rent subsidies from the federal government, and relaunch grants from the government of Ontario, the average fitness facility is still losing between $15-25K per month and has racked up an average of $150-200K in additional debt. Furthermore, government aid programs are being reduced in the coming months while fitness clubs continue to face months of zero income.
Corneil added, “Pandemic isolation and stress means Ontarians need their gyms more than ever, and the gyms need Ontarians. We are eager to work with the government to help make responsible decisions about reopening Ontario fitness facilities as quickly as possible. Frankly, some of our members simply won’t make it to August. Now is the time for gyms to support Ontarian’s physical and mental health.”
FIC and its members are planning to aggressively lobby the provincial government to reconsider the schedule for indoor fitness activities in Ontario.