With a second wave of COVID-19 officially upon us and the number of cases on the rise, a Quebec gym owner is calling for gyms to be declared an essential service as worry of a possible lockdown looms.
“I believe it’s a big danger to close all gyms, not only our facility,” Tinel Timu said.
“Sports and training is directly related to health and are essential to the public.”
Timu, who owns Monster Gym in Dorval and the Carrefour Multisport in Laval, is calling on the government to keep sporting facilities open.
Timu says the closure of gyms will be detrimental to people’s health not only physically, but also mentally.
He fears what a possible lockdown, like the one at the beginning of the pandemic, will do to his business and the public’s well-being.
“We won’t be healthy. What are we risking when we are not keeping up our health?” Timu said.
A spokesperson for the Quebec Health Ministry, however, said the concept of “essential services” is not a judgment on the importance of a sector of activity or the benefits thereof.
Robert Maranda said that traditionally, essential services boil down to all the services necessary to ensure the health and safety of citizens, such as energy, health care, food, water, transport, security, etc. Those are the services and activities for which the health and safety of citizens could potentially be threatened if they were interrupted.
“Public health fully recognizes the importance of physical activity and its health benefits, regardless of whether these are considered essential services or not,” Maranda said.
Monster Gym manager Vincent Sheffield said he is “not sure” if the gym can “withstand another prolonged shutdown.”
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From a financial standpoint, gyms, like numerous business, struggled during the quarantine period, Sheffield said.
After being open for three months, business is only beginning to improve.
While falling short of calling it a necessary service, Sheffield says the gym offers a safe way to stay in shape, with few to no reported cases linked to his establishment.
“If people are going to exercise and stay in shape and stay healthy, it’s probably essential that gyms remain open.”
Avid gym-goer Lori Moreno says she was relieved and overwhelmed to be back pumping iron after the forced shutdown.
“Going through such a hard period like that without this escape, it was so hard for me,” Moreno said.
While she understands there is a risk, she feels more protected at times inside her gym than in other public spaces.
“Sometimes I feel safer here than in Walmart or the SAQ, having to wipe down everything you’re in contact with,” Moreno said.
She says she takes all necessary precautions to protect herself, wearing a mask and disinfecting so that gyms can remain open.
She does, however, worry about a repeat of the spring shutdown.
Like many, she adapted to working out at home but said it’s not the same.
With winter and colder weather on the horizon, large, heated indoor spaces will be highly coveted.
“It’s just harder times in the winter,” she said. “It’s already a dark time. It’s going to be difficult.”
The Health Ministry assured the public that the gyms will remain open “as long as public health considers that the risks associated with their attendance remain safe.”