Coronavirus: Public swimming pools, country clubs, gyms, fitness studios to close for a month

Sports and recreation facilities, including golf country clubs, will be closed from April 7, 2020. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Sports will officially grind to a halt in Singapore for four weeks from April 7 to May 4 as the Government implements an elevated set of safe distancing measures as a "circuit breaker to pre-empt the trend of increasing local transmission of Covid-19".

On top of other measures, the multi-ministry task force announced yesterday that sports and recreation facilities, such as public swimming pools - including those at 26 Sport Singapore swimming complexes - country clubs, gyms and fitness studios will be closed.

All recreational facilities in hotels will also be closed.

While public parks and 15 SportSG open-air stadiums will remain open, the task force reminded the public to practise safe distancing even in open spaces.

It added: "Members of the public who need to exercise should do so on their own, around their immediate neighbourhood in open, uncrowded places."

A skeletal team of ActiveSG "sport champions" will be deployed to prevent overcrowding, and others will ensure minimum levels of maintenance are carried out to preserve serviceability of the public facilities, especially the swimming pools.

In March, bowling centres and billiard halls had already stopped operating, while the public was also discouraged from playing team sports.

On the other hand, local private golf clubs experienced as much as a 15 per cent surge in bookings last month compared to February.

The 2018 Singapore Golf Industry Report had noted there were 46,000 golfers that held membership to the 12 private country clubs here and 55 per cent of them were over the age of 55.

But the Singapore Golf Association told ST that all 15 courses here will be out of bounds from April 7.

Mandai Executive Golf Course general manager Bobby Poh told ST: "This means zero revenue for the company, coaches and tenants. However, we must stand by the government decision to close the facilities because we uphold and prioritise social responsibility.

"We are grateful for the government's rental waiver, but we don't know if the closure will be extended. We are also worried about operating costs as we are still paying salaries and high maintenance fees, and are not sure if the government is providing assistance for this."

Meanwhile, Swiss Club Singapore, which offers aqua biking, karate, tennis and zumba lessons among other recreational activities, is also concerned about the disruption the new measures bring.

Its general manager, Mr Aaron Lim ,said: "Yes, we are worried about the future of the club as we are a members' club and providing sports and recreation facilities for our members is our main lifeblood.

"As for our staff, those who can work from home will do so, and we would keep minimal kitchen and service staff at our food kiosks. We will comply with the government advisory and close all our sports and recreation facilities."

But some, like Fit Eleven operations director Kurt Drysdale, had expected the closures and had been prepared for the move since January, when his fitness studio suffered a 25 per cent dip in profits.

He said: "We plan to film online classes for our customers. Around 80 per cent of our instructors are freelancers... we plan to help them financially by getting them to teach the online classes. I can help some, but not all."

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Swimming academies will also take a huge hit as their business grinds to a halt.

SwimFast Aquatic Group, which has more than 1,000 registered swimmers across venues at three schools, had stopped lessons since March 27 and will comply with the latest directive.

Swimfast managing director David Lim said: "We will continue paying our employees, which include 18 full-time coaches and administrative staff, but we cannot afford to do so indefinitely when we are not able to resume lessons. We hope the government is able to help companies like us, even as we figure out ways to cover overhead costs."

A SportSG spokesman confirmed with The Straits Times that official training for national athletes will also be suspended, while the Singapore Sports Hub will also shut its sports facilities over the same period.

Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy shared that his team of coaches and athletes are working closely to implement training plans and regimens to ensure the athletes are exercising at home, eating right and sleeping right.

He added: "The focus is to ensure the athletes are in excellent condition to resume full training when the conditions allow."

This article has been edited for clarity.

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