With Metro Manila and a number of provinces to be placed under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with “heightened restrictions” from August 1-15, 2021, gyms and sports centers which were allowed to open last July 2, are about to be shut down again for the nth time.
This development caused anxiety among gym and sports center employees and operators, who are now wondering if they could still survive another round of closure to their already distressed industry.
The group approached Ang Probinsyano Party List (APPL) Representative Alfred Delos Santos, who has taken up the cudgels to elevate their plea to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which issued Memorandum 21-19, Section 1 last May 14, 2021 that declared: Business Establishments, Persons or Activities not allowed to operate under GCQ with heightened restrictions are: “Venues for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), indoor sports venues and indoor tourist attractions.”
Rep. Delos Santos pointed out: “The Fitness Industry offers professional training for health and wellness purposes. So, if it is a partner in boosting the immunity of people, why are gyms and indoor sports centers being classified alongside recreational establishments, and the last allowed to open under community quarantine rules?”
According to a statement released last June 7, 2021 by Philippine Fitness Alliance, a group representing the largest fitness brands in the country: Surge Fitness Lifestyle, Gold’s Gym, Fitness First, Anytime Fitness, Evolution Wellness 2 Philippines, Celebrity Fitness, UFC Gym and Slimmers World: “Thousands of fitness industry workers have lost their jobs or have reduced working hours. Hundreds of thousands of gym members indefinitely paused their workout regimen. While we fully understand the threat of the pandemic to the public, can our industry be given support or concession by the government?”
Rep. Delos Santos added: “These establishments have infused additional health protocol standards, additional expenses kahit barely surviving ang negosyo nila. They’re trying to stay afloat so that their remaining employees could keep their jobs. Hindi naman siguro labis if we ask the government agencies involved to consider their reclassification under “Personal Care Services” instead of “Recreational Establishments”?
“At 30 percent capacity, they can operate along with barbershops, beauty salons, aesthetic centers, massage and wellness centers – which if we’re going to be technical, are industries which have more direct physical contact compared to gyms and indoor sports establishment,” he said.
Tina Realiza, general manager of Surge Fitness Lifestyle shared: “Here at Surge Fitness, aside from investing on anti-virus mist machines in all our gyms — which are expensive additional costs, there are alcohol dispensers at every equipment station so that guests could disinfect the equipment with every usage. We have also provided in-house accommodation for our employees to rule out the possibility of picking up the virus while commuting. We undergo regular mandatory swab tests. And as frontliners under A4 category, we are all vaccinated.
“At 30% capacity under GCQ, only 10% of our members visit the gym. With all these extra precaution and current situation, we’re pleading the government to allow us to operate”.
Ian Marvin Abella, a telecoms executive, gym enthusiast for decades, laments the on-off opening of his favorite gym at present, Surge Fitness Lifestyle. “For months, when the gyms were not allowed to operate, I was stuck at home and negative thoughts were playing in my mind. Going to the gym is a big part of my life and knowing I wouldn’t be able to do this physical and emotional outlet that I have become dependent on, caused me additional feelings of frustration, anger and uncertainty amidst the pandemic.”
At face value, fitness facilities may seem to be mostly physical in nature. But it often serves a deeper mental and emotional purpose. Hitting the gym on a regular basis keeps you motivated, makes you feel good about yourself, provides you with a sense of being a part of a community, and serves as a healthy outlet for anger, stress and anxiety.
Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit, CEO of Gold’s Gym added: “We are aware that various sectors have requested for gyms to remain closed because apparently, they contribute to a faster spread of the virus. What is the basis of this allegation? The gyms we represent had more than 600,000-member check-ins in the months we were open. And to date, we have zero transmission of the virus. The data itself is testament to how safe gym facilities are during the pandemic.”
Joey Concepcion, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, already stated that fears concerning the Delta variant should be balanced with the need to protect the economy:
“In the end, we want to save both lives and livelihood. And I’m confident that if we do things right, we have a good chance of reviving the economy,” Concepcion said.
In the radio program of Rep. Delos Santos and Ces Orena Drilon, “Basta Promdi, Lodi” at DZXL 588, Drilon asked their guest, Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, Special Adviser for National Task Force on COVID-19, if all of the gym’s employees have been fully vaccinated, should they be allowed to operate?
Dr. Herbosa opined: “Fully vaccinated doesn’t prevent transmission. In fact, that’s the problem, when you’re fully vaccinated, you’re too confident, baka ikaw pa yung mag-transmit sa non-vaccinated. Although the chances niyan is lower. Ang suggestion ko kay Tina (GM, Surge Fitness Lifestyle) is to make an appeal. But the DTI would probably have to look at the safety measures they will put in place that will allow her to open their Gym.”
Rep. Delos Santos summed up the issue by saying: “I don’t see any reason for gyms and indoor sports centers to be kept closed during GCQ with heightened restrictions and be classified under recreational establishments. Let the fitness industry operate as long as they adhere to safety guidelines. Let them survive this economic crisis. Let them be reclassifed under the less-restrictive personal care services.”