On July 29, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs allowed gymnasiums and yoga centres, shut for more than four months due to the coronavirus lockdown, to reopen from August 5. But fitness enthusiasts in the state may have to wait a few more days as gyms recalibrate their operations: from training their staff in Covid-19 safety measures to sanitising every corner and equipment to staggered shifts.
Says Saurav Arora, the owner and head coach of Rave Fitness Studio, a gym located in Central Kolkata’s Elgin Road, “We are opening on August 6 (Wednesday was a bi-weekly lockdown). But we will not allow our members to join this week (till August 9). We will utilise these three days to train our staff about various safety measures that have been put in place in line with the guidelines issued by the government.”
While the August 3 notification advises people above 65 years and with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below 10 years to not visit gyms, it is mandatory for the exempted group to maintain a six-foot distance and use face covers or masks within the premises. The guidelines further advise a floor area of four metre square per person.
This also means that gyms can no longer allow their members to walk-in anytime. To solve this, some have introduced staggered timings with a cap on the number of people in one shift.
“We will remain open from 7 am to 9 pm. A patron is allowed to exercise for one hour and 15 minutes, which they have to pre-book. After each shift, 15 minutes is allotted for sanitisation. We will allow only eight people, including three trainers, in each shift. Other than sanitisation at the gate, every member will also be given a bottle of sanitiser and a face shield which they will have to wear within the premises,” Arora says.
However, a few owners are inclined to wait for a week or two before reopening.
Vinit Baptist, the owner of Zest Fitness Studio, which has three branches in Kolkata, says, “We plan to open our facilities to our members in the second or the third week of August. Till then, we have some measures, including sanitisation, to take.”
Gyms are not leaving any stone unturned to offer a sanitised environment.
“We are ensuring that clothing and footwear of every member entering the gym are sanitised. Along with the body temperature, we will note down the oxygen saturation level of every member using an oximeter. We have also decided to not allow any member from containment zones,” says Baptist, adding that group sessions and contact sports, such as mixed martial arts, were suspended.
However, with membership costs remaining the same and falling headcounts, many facilities have moved online to attract clients. “So far, we have not changed our membership fee. But we have added a sanitisation fee of Rs 300 per month, which was decided by the Gym Owner’s Forum of West Bengal.”
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