Indoor mask-off sports and exercise activities to cease from July 22 amid tighter Covid-19 rules

The tightened measures mark a return to phase two (heightened alert). ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Strenuous indoor sports and exercise classes, which require participants to take their masks off, will cease from Thursday (July 22), following a tightening of restrictions by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 on Tuesday.

The tightened measures mark a return to phase two (heightened alert) and will last till Aug 18.

This follows the surge in coronavirus cases in the community in recent days following the discovery of clusters linked to Jurong Fishery Port and the KTV lounges or nightclubs that had pivoted as food and beverage establishments.

Mask-off activities will be allowed outdoors, but class sizes are limited to just two people.

Mask-on activities - whether indoor or outdoor - may proceed in classes of up to 30 persons in groups of up to two people, subject to a venue's capacity limit and safe distancing requirements.

Sports events that allow for spectatorship, such as football's Singapore Premier League, will see crowd sizes limited to a maximum of 100 persons, down from the initial 250 - if pre-event testing (PET) is implemented. PET is not required for events with 50 or fewer people.

Further details will be released by Sport Singapore.

Ms Joyce Lee, managing director of Fitness Champs Swim School, said: "I'm very disappointed but things are getting out of hand and the measures are necessary to curb the pandemic from worsening."

Her school will likely revert to one-on-one coaching and she does not expect the take-up rate to be high, given the increase in fees and parents being more concerned about the spread of Covid-19.

Fitness Champs typically runs 50 to 60 classes across one weekend, and 14 to 16 classes on a weekday across various locations, including swimming complexes in Sengkang, Yishun and Clementi. Its programme includes classes for toddlers, learn-to-swim and competitive swimming.

Ms Alicia Teng, co-director of Division Athletics, is taking the news in her stride despite her business being barely three weeks old. She and her two partners have outlined possible solutions for the next month, including holding indoor and outdoor, mask-on classes at their Shenton Way location or launching online packages for their clients.

The gym, which focuses on strength and conditioning, typically runs eight classes with six to eight participants each in a day.

The 23-year-old said: "We had pretty good momentum the past four weeks so to have to stop it now is a bit of pity because our classes have been filling up quite well.

"But we can only move forward and hopefully we'll still be able to give our members a good experience."

A fitness coach from Level Gym conducting a one-to-one training session. From tomorrow, mask-on activities can be conducted in groups of no more than two people, in classes of up to 30. PHOTO: LEVEL SINGAPORE
A fitness coach from Level Gym conducting a one-to-one training session. From tomorrow, mask-on activities can be conducted in groups of no more than two people, in classes of up to 30. PHOTO: LEVEL SINGAPORE

Gymgoer Michelle Yee was also disappointed by the news as she attends classes at F45 Holland Village and works out at Fitness First gyms regularly.

The account manager said: "All my friends at the gym and I just feel it's (the changes) very mentally draining. It takes time for us to build up our fitness, then when they (the authorities) implement closures of gyms, it's very disruptive because your training will have to come to a stop in some ways.

"It's happened a few times already and it's a bit frustrating also. But I understand the Government needs to play it safe because you can't deny there's a risk of exposure in gyms."

In March last year, two gyms in Singapore were visited by Covid-19 cases. The Safra Punggol gym had one individual who was later identified as Case 138, and the Tanjong Pagar branch of Virgin Active Singapore had two unlinked cases in the same week.

Both gyms were closed for cleaning and disinfection. Neither incident resulted in a cluster forming.

While Ms Yee, 32, has alternative workout plans, such as running outdoors and doing strength training at home, she will miss the social aspect of exercising in groups.

She said: "The community keeps us sane, especially during this time. And for me, it's like having a goal because we take part in challenges too, so that keeps us motivated and there's something to look forward in a way."

The latest changes are a further restriction from what the task force announced last week, that group sizes for high-intensity, mask-off activities in a gym or fitness studio had been reduced to two in a class of no more than 30, including the instructor, without the need for testing or vaccination from Monday.

Activities in groups of five had been allowed to continue if all individuals in the class are fully vaccinated, they are a recovered patient, or have a valid negative Covid-19 test result covering the duration of the class.

A brief relaxing of measures from July 12 saw indoor, mask-off sports and exercise activities at gyms and fitness studios take place in groups of five for just a week.

In view of the tightened safe management measures until Aug 18, the Government will provide a support package to affected businesses and workers. The Ministry of Finance will announce more details in the next few days.

Read next: What you need to know about Singapore's Covid-19 rules from July 22


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