Watch: what to expect when Virgin Active opens for business again

Health and fitness group Virgin Active says it is working closely with the government to reopen its health clubs as soon as possible.

Health clubs and gyms have been closed since March, when the country entered into hard lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and have been unable to welcome members back under levels 4 or 3, amid safety concerns.

The latest lockdown regulations, gazetted by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Monday, do not explicitly preclude health clubs, gyms and fitness centres under its “specific economic exclusions”, as they have in the past.

However, without clear directives from government, the sector remains closed until further notice.

Virgin in the meantime, has highlighted in a video to members how it has made its health clubs Covid-19 ready, showing them what they can expect once training facilities are allowed to open again.

According to the group, the main changes include:

  • Health screening for staff throughout the day;
  • Online booking for training slots, with contactless club access;
  • Club capacity monitoring at all times;
  • Increased ventilation and air circulation;
  • More group classes with reduced capacity for social distancing;
  • Santiser dispensers and hand washing facilities places around the clubs;
  • Machines and equipment laid out in clearly marked areas;
  • Hospital grade cleaning protocols in place;
  • Cleaning frequency and capacity has been increased;
  • Guides and markings clearly visible, indicating safe training spaces.

Upon arrival to a club, a member will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms.

“Digital temperature screening is a quick and effective way to confirm if someone has a fever and might be unwell. It’s a quick, necessary step before you enter our clubs. Member access is now also completely contactless and club capacity is carefully monitored throughout the day,” the group said.

“On arrival, our team will also conduct a quick questionnaire to ask if you have experienced any in a range of symptoms. A yes will, unfortunately, mean you may not train.”

The changing rooms will be a particular focus, the group said, adding that members will be encouraged to be dressed and ready to train if they can, “as this will reduce potential contact in the locker rooms”.

Based on the government guidelines, signs will be posted indicating restrictions for the water fountains, steam rooms and saunas, it said, while members will at all times know which spaces are safe, and how distant they need to be, thanks the clear markings.

What about masks?

Virgin said that while its team will be “masked up and ready to go”, masks for members will be encouraged or required, depending on government guidelines.

To this end, the group said it will also have training masks available for sale at clubs or online.

According to the current regulations, the only time masks are not required for exercising is when a person undertakes ‘vigorous exercise’ in a public place. This is also provided they maintain a distance of at least three metres from any other person.

However, this is subject to directions on what is considered to be ‘vigorous’ by the minister of health. There is not yet any indication on where this applies, or in which spaces (ie, indoor training, or outside).

South Africa’s regulations around the use of masks stipulate that it has become a criminal offence to not wear one in a public space. The liability of this offence rests with managers, owners and compliance officers for now, but government has not ruled out individual liability in the future.

Read: Sale of Virgin Active delayed after gyms close due to coronavirus

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Watch: what to expect when Virgin Active opens for business again