Gym owners in S'pore ready for larger groups and regular 14-day Covid-19 testing

All staff who work at gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked will be placed on a regular 14-day Fast and Easy Tests regimen.
All staff who work at gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked will be placed on a regular 14-day Fast and Easy Tests regimen.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Ryan Choo has been busy preparing for his gym, Body Fit Training Raffles CBD, to welcome its first customers on Saturday (July 10).

But he was left scrambling when the multi-ministry taskforce said on Wednesday that indoor, mask-off sports and exercise activities will be allowed to take place in groups of five - up from two currently - at gyms and fitness studios from next Monday, just two days after Choo's gym opens.

The cap for indoor and outdoor classes will also increase from 30 to 50 people, including the instructor.

The 32-year-old head coach admitted: "At first, I was a bit worried and concerned because I have to change things, like we just taped the floor (into sections) but then we had to rearrange the tape again.

"But after thinking about it, I think it's OK and we can handle it. We can comfortably fit six people in each of the three zones but if the measures are relaxed more, we'll be able to host more people and open more slots for our members."

But at the end of the day, the development is good news for the industry and he added: "It's been a long time coming... from a year ago and I'm definitely a little nervous but also very excited to finally get this going."

Besides segregated zones, other safety measures Choo has in place include disinfecting the equipment and room after every 45-minute session and cleaning high-touch points thrice a day.

Indoor, mask-off activities were allowed to resume in groups of two from June 12 as the second stage of the economy's reopening began. These activities had been suspended since May 8 following the introduction of stricter Covid-19 measures.

To prepare for the new measures, True Group director Sean Tan said the floor markings across True's 12 clubs will be rearranged to allow for the larger group sizes.

He added: "As the safety of our staff and members remains our top priority, we will continue to do regular and thorough cleaning and disinfecting of our clubs every two hours including toilets and showers, and applying antimicrobial coatings on high-touch areas. Our members will continue to be required to book time slots and enter using Safe Entry."

While there are concerns about gyms - which have been deemed higher-risk settings - experiencing greater traffic, regular gym goers were pleased at the relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Accountant Joel Tan, who does weights training at Anytime Fitness Balestier three to four times a week, said he was not worried about the increase in the number of people allowed. He has also noticed that gym goers have been more proactive in cleaning the equipment since the pandemic started.

Tan, 28, added: "Even with the increase in numbers, gyms have already put in place the necessary safe management measures, such as (greater) distancing between equipment and having members clean equipment after use, so I still feel safe going to the gym."

Homemaker Emily Peh, who attends classes at F45 Holland Village five times a week, believes more people will now be willing to return to the gym as "more folk in the population are getting vaccinated".

She is relishing the opportunity to work out with more people. The class she attends now has 12 people, down from 20 to 30 before the pandemic.

Noting that her classes used to include activities in groups of two or three before the pandemic, the 36-year-old said: "We go to F45 not just for exercise, but for the community as well. Having group work occasionally helps to change things up a bit more, doing it individually is quite sad. But it's better now as it's not as cramped as last time and we can move around in a circuit so it's not like you're in a little square by yourself."

All staff who work at gyms and fitness studios where clients are unmasked will also be placed on a regular 14-day Fast and Easy Tests (FET) regimen, which will be made mandatory from July 15.

F45 Tanjong Rhu co-owner Barbora Hogan collected 16 test kits for her team of eight coaches on Thursday and said that they are ready for the regular testing. Two of her staff completed the training course last week.

The outlet at Kallang Wave Mall is currently operating at 50 per cent capacity with a maximum of 18 people in one class. Equipment and door handles are cleaned regularly throughout the day while the toilets have been closed to prevent mingling.

A class at F45 Tanjong Rhu with safe distancing between attendees separated by gym equipment. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

She said: "We are very happy that the group sizes will increase from two to five. It feels like we are moving in the right direction slowly but surely. (There's) still a long way to go to be able to run a regular F45 class though.

"But with the rapid vaccination progress, we hope we will get there at some point before the end of this year. It will hopefully give confidence to those who haven't been back to the gym yet."