Gyms ready to re-open with COVID-19 mitigation strategy

ExerciseNZ says the fitness industry is ready and prepared to re-open following the development of new framework for facilities.

Richard Beddie, CEO of ExerciseNZ, says the fitness industry is ready and prepared to re-open under level 2  following the development of new framework for facilities, which includes strict cleaning and safety regimes.

ExerciseNZ has created a framework outlining how exercise facilities in New Zealand can safely operate in a coronavirus environment, including new protocols for cleaning, safety, and social distancing.

“We have a world class framework for re-opening and we have protocols, distancing, cleaning and safety regimes in everyone’s best interests,” Beddie said.

“X marks the spot might be a lot more common in group exercise spaces with lots of sprays and cleaning rules to sustain safety for exercising people and staff.

“Our industry protocols should ensure prevention of community transmission. Restrictions under alert level two still need to be imposed. We believe New Zealanders want to do the right thing.

“Our approach to the easing of the pandemic in New Zealand is a world first, we have engaged global experts, as well as a NZ-based clinical protocol designer to ensure all the recommendations are evidence-based and consistent with the latest research on Covid-19.

“We’ve specifically considered each and every Covid-19 risk and developed a mitigation strategy from them, using a model based on one developed in the USA.

“We want to not only provide support to exercise providers navigating Covid-19 but provide information to government and the New Zealand exercising public, that we take safety seriously.”

Scott Rozendaal, sales director of Spillz Australia, told Inclean Australia gyms are high risk environments which will need to be cleaned more regularly – as much as three times a day – and with proper cleaning materials and methods.

“A gym is a high risk environment and if they are going to re-open, they will need to be cleaned more regularly. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is very prevalent in an environment like a gym because there’s an abundance of food source for bacteria – there’s a lot more energy being exerted and expelled. Cleaners will need to ensure that they are using proper and effective methods to remove any biomaterial from surfaces.”

Gym equipment surfaces are also known to harbour a range of contaminants due to the wide range of use of the equipment.

“Machines are most exposed to [contamination] as people using the machines are breathing heavily and exerting themselves, which creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. They also the most difficult to clean in comparison to other areas like the floors, showers or toilets. Cleaners need to ensure they’re using effective methods,” Rozendaal  said.

Bridget Gardner, director of HPC Solutions, told Inclean Australia it is important gym owners ask cleaning companies the right questions about their qualifications and cleaning processes.

“Gym owners should ask cleaning companies about the qualifications their cleaning personnel or supervisors hold, and what hand hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, and cloth/mop laundering processes they have in place.

“A person who is infected by coronavirus, but still asymptomatic and unaware, will have the potential to shed more virus in a gym than in a normal building. They will be sweating, touching more equipment, and breathing harder as they exert themselves. Other gym members are likely to have more bare skin in contact with the surface and also breathing more heavily, exposing themselves to the virus.”

Gardner said it is important for gym members to use alcohol-based disinfectant wipe on every surface they touch. However, the handles of gym equipment often have textured surfaces for gripping, which makes it harder to clean away organic matter that could be carrying the virus with a single disposable wipe.

“It is imperative that more time is allowed for after-hours cleaning services, to ensure that every single touched surface is thoroughly cleaned before disinfecting. Disinfectants must be ARTG registered with specific claims of being antiviral.”

According to Gardner, who has recently released a new cleaning training manual, The Guide to Cleaning for COVID -19, floors should be vacuumed with equipment containing HEPA filtration and ideally, mopped with flat mops that can be more readily washed and dried. If there are carpeted floors in exercise rooms, they must be cleaned regularly with hot-water extraction carpet cleaning equipment.

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern announced earlier this week New Zealand would begin a staged approach to alert level 2 from Thursday.

Ardern said Cabinet had agreed New Zealand is ready to move into level 2, “to open up the economy, but to do it as safely as possible.”

From Thursday 14 May, retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and other public spaces including playgrounds and gyms, can reopen. All will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place. On Monday 18 May, schools will be allowed to re-open.

Bars will be allowed to open from Thursday, 21 May under strict requirements – seating must be provided, there must be space between tables, and there mustn’t be multiple waiters and waitresses serving a single table.

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