The fitness industry has done a magnificent job of establishing it can operate safely, with research from the UK, Europe, the US, Asia and Australia, indicating exceptionally low levels of COVID-19 association of any kind.
Now, as the industry begins to reopen, we’ve had the first known COVID-19 cluster and this has served both to highlight the sound COVID-secure operations being delivered elsewhere and as a warning to the sector about the importance of unity and trust to survival.
The club in question is Ursus Fitness in Hong Kong, which now has the dubious accolade of having been the first known health club in the world to be the centre of a COVID-19 cluster, with 150 people known to have contracted the virus after visiting.
In this issue (p16) we talk to Colin Grant, CEO of Pure Group and chair of the Hong Kong Alliance of Professional Fitness and Wellness Operators (HKAPFWO), about how the Hong Kong government cooperated with operators to control the Ursus cluster and avoid gym closures.
The HKAPFWO has developed a powerful relationship with its government, which immediately ordered the emergency testing of all 50,000 people working in the sector – over a two-day period – to keep facilities open.
To learn from the outbreak, the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong then worked with the government’s electrical and mechanical services team to conclude there had been insufficient fresh air supply within the Ursus Fitness gym to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a boost to the confidence of the fitness sector in Hong Kong, a subsequent single positive test at the GO24 gym did not lead to any transmission, in spite of the fact the person in question attended a group exercise class with 20 other people, reconfirming that safe operating procedures are effective in controlling COVID-19.
It’s a harsh truth, but this experience shows it only takes one rogue operator to place stress on any industry and it’s never been more important for everyone in our sector to commit to delivering on our bond of trust in maintaining safe standards to ensure consumer confidence.
It’s also essential we don’t allow anything to happen to lead governments to question their support for our work, meaning every operator, no matter its size or facility type, must reliably deliver services in a COVID-secure way.
If anything is seen to be slipping, we must alert the operator involved in order to safeguard the reputation of the wider sector and if that doesn’t lead to an immediate response, inform local Environmental Health Officers.
For the sake of industry unity, let’s hope this won’t ever be necessary and that all operators will commit to a level of professionalism that will enable us to trust each other, to stay open and to thrive together.