Some Quebec gym, yoga, dance and martial arts business owners say they intend to reopen their doors on Thursday in defiance of provincial health rules.
A coalition of fitness businesses is calling on Quebec Premier François Legault to lift restrictions that forced their facilities to close this month amid a second COVID-19 wave.
They urged Legault to consider their plight ahead of an expected announcement Monday and said that without evidence they are contributing to outbreaks, they should be allowed to reopen.
When Legault announced the measures affecting the province’s high-alert red zones, including Montreal and Quebec City, they were scheduled to come to an end after Oct. 28, but he has recently hinted that some of the restrictions will have to remain in place.
“For the moment, we are ready to open on the 29th, because there hasn’t been any recommendations to the contrary,” said Christian Menard, vice-president of ProGym in east-end Montreal.
“We want the premier to take into consideration the opinion and the lives of those on the ground and those who use these facilities.”
While some the coalition’s 253 members have vowed to reopen their doors on Thursday even if the lockdown is extended, not all have committed to doing so.
Menard said above all, the group wants the government and public health officials to consider them as an asset to the health system and acknowledge their facilities contribute to the population’s overall physical and mental well-being.
“There’s a part of the population in distress that needs these services, and as the winter months inch closer, these services will become essential,” Menard said.
On Monday, Quebec reported 808 new COVID-19 cases as well as 10 further deaths linked to the virus. The province has a seven-day average of 940 cases daily, roughly 110 people per million population.
The number of hospitalizations dropped by eight from one day earlier to 543. Of those, the number of intensive care cases dropped by four to 93.
Since Quebec announced a 28-day partial lockdown in Montreal and Quebec City beginning Oct. 1, several other regions have been declared COVID-19 red zones. The measures closed bars, restaurant dining rooms and theatres, among other venues, and a week later gyms were added to the list.
The coalition of fitness company owners said in a statement the lockdown measures will force them out of business after they made significant investments to comply with health measures during the pandemic.
Menard said his own gym has a key card system that acts as a registry, and as a precaution he’s installed a temperature-screening device at the entrance.
While some of the facilities across the province intend to reopen, the statement suggested they would back down if health authorities can demonstrate by Thursday that their operations have led to outbreaks.
“If they want to close us, they have to give us the facts,” Menard said.
“We were open for four months, they kept tabs on us more than most, and we showed an ability to stay safe, so they have to tell us why we’re more dangerous than others.”