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Virgin Active clubs stay open, despite call to 'avoid workouts and gyms'

18 March 2020 - 19:17 By Aron Hyman
Virgin Active gyms will remain open, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
Virgin Active gyms will remain open, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
Image: 123RF/Sergiy Tryapitsyn

Virgin Active has decided to keep its gyms open despite the government urging people to avoid "workouts and gyms".

Although it is closing facilities for children “in line with government-mandated school closures”, the international fitness brand said it would keep gym doors open but restrict attendance to less than 100 members at a time.

Some people took to social media to criticise the company on Wednesday, including puppet Chester Missing, played by ventriloquist comedian Conrad Koch.

"Are there crazy people out there still going to gym? You know what will really f**k with your fitness regime? Being on a ventilator. Come on people, social distance," he tweeted.

Virgin Active said in a press release on Wednesday that it had adopted international best practice with the continued operation of their gyms, which remain open internationally.

"With member access data, we are able to identify when exactly a person under investigation (PUI) entered a club and who they may have been in contact with for the duration of their visit," said the company’s head of corporate and media communications Carla White.

"Shopping centres, retailers, public transport ... don’t have this benefit. Our access data can be made available to the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] in their efforts to trace a PUI’s interactions

White said Virgin Active had made numerous changes to its clubs, including:

  • closing water fountains;
  • removing boxing pads and yoga hammocks; and
  • increasing cleaning staff and the frequency of cleaning.
Among the social distancing guidelines recommended by the department of health is to avoid "workouts and gyms".
Among the social distancing guidelines recommended by the department of health is to avoid "workouts and gyms".
Image: National Department of Health/https://sacoronavirus.co.za/2020/03/16/social-distancing-guidelines/

"Virgin Active has stringent cleaning protocols using hospital-grade chemicals formulated to disinfect surfaces, changerooms and equipment in our clubs. It is patented worldwide and is proven for antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal disinfection."

Hand sanitisers have been made available at entrances and on the gym floor, while scanners have been positioned so that customers can self-scan their access cards.

"We must highlight that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, not through sweat or pool water," said White.

"Disinfectant spray and paper towelling is provided to wipe down equipment before and after use. It is imperative that members see the role they can play in stemming transmission of the virus."

The rule of compulsory sweat towels will be vigilantly enforced.

All classes will have their normal capacity halved. "We monitor access across our estate of clubs hourly, and the number of accesses has dropped organically."

A series of online workouts will be made available so that members can "keep their training momentum going if their personal decision is to stay home".

An outdoor running club will also be introduced for groups of eight to 10 people, led by a Virgin Active instructor and leaving from clubs twice a day.

"Our exercise team are ready to roll out adapted workouts so that members don’t have to share equipment without compromising on a great workout. To ensure our high safety standards, once each class is done, our cleaning team will do the all-important job of sanitising and disinfecting the space and the equipment," added White.

Keyboards from internet stations will also be removed and users would need to bring their own devices.