While much of the country begins to slowly relax its COVID-19 restrictions, one territory is making much larger strides.
Residents in the Northern Territory will be able to head back to their favourite gym as of May 15. While social distancing must still be followed in the NT, many restrictions (including a 10-person maximum at gatherings) have been scrapped.
“If you want to stay the safest place in Australia, if you want to have a beer at the pub… go to the gym, I need you to follow the rules and keep your distance,” said NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
So, while Territorians resume some of their normal activities, it might take a while for the rest of the country to catch up. And once we do, going somewhere like the gym will look very different — and for good reason.
When at the gym, individuals are obviously exerting themselves — resulting in a lot of sweat and heavy breathing, which in the time of COVID-19, is a big no-no.
In fact, ABC broadcaster Dr Norman Swan avoids other runners for this very reason.
“If joggers invade your personal space they are flicking whatever secretions they’ve got,” he said on ABC’s Coronacast.
So, this poses a problem for the reopening of gyms.
“People work very hard at the gym, they sweat, they breathe and puff very heavily so they are pushing out droplets and particles — you have to ensure that people have more than two metres between each other to be safe,” Professor Marylouise McLaws, an infectious disease expert at UNSW and advisor to the WHO, told 10 daily.
When it comes to opening gyms around the country, it could happen sooner than we think.
“I would select the 1st of June because that gives us a whole month, and that is several times the incubation period — because normally what we do in an outbreak is consider the last case and then multiply the incubation by two,” she said.
But, be prepared that when gyms do reopen, it won’t look the same as pre-coronavirus, with cleaning measures and class sizes needing to change.
“They would have to have very strict cleaning of the equipment each time it was used — you can’t just rely on the person before you having done a thorough job,” Professor McLaws told 10 daily.
According to the CEO of Fitness Australia, Barrie Elvish, reduced class capacity and strict hygiene rules would ensure a safe environment for gym-goers.
“We believe gyms can safely reopen with social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, which is why we have prepared a strict reopening framework for all fitness facilities and personal trainers,” Elvish told 10 daily.
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.