Singapore's tighter Covid-19 measures a blow to gym owners, while organisers reschedule, adjust mass sport events

SINGAPORE – Higher-risk settings such as indoor gyms and indoor fitness or health studios will be closed and mass participation events will be suspended from Saturday (May 8) to May 30 to minimise large Covid-19 cluster formation and reduce the risk of community transmission.

No spectators will be allowed at sports events during this period.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force (MTF) tackling the coronavirus pandemic in Singapore, announced stricter measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the wider community.

He said: “There are some settings which are of higher risk… typically where there is a high density of people who are unmasked and in close proximity with one another, often for prolonged periods.

A good example of such settings would be indoor gyms and fitness studios, he added.

The move comes as a blow for gym owners who previously had to cope with closures during the circuit breaker from April to June last year.

Mr Koh See Khiang, 44, owner of five Anytime Fitness franchises, was “bewildered” by the announcement.

He said: “It’s not really clear to us why gyms have been singled out as high-risk. While I definitely appreciate the concerns around how people are working out in close proximity, I think the fitness industry in Singapore has proven that we’re able to manage the safety measures and keep everyone safe and there haven’t been many people getting infected in a gym setting as far as I know.

Saying that this was “out of the blue”, he added: “Honestly it’s very difficult to plan without full visibility as to how long this would last. There’s not enough information in front of us to do any concrete planning yet.”

Gym goers like Ms Claire Siew, who has been an Anytime Fitness member since 2019 and visits the gym five to six times a week, was also disheartened by the news.

While the 23-year-old accountant said she understood the rationale behind the move, she had hoped that patron numbers would be limited at gyms instead of a closure.

She added: “It is not easy to replicate all the exercises outside the gym without gym equipment. I have some dumbbells and weights which I will use, and I will run and do more workouts at home. They are not a perfect replacement, but it’s better than nothing.”

Mass participation sport events will also be called off during this period. The OCBC Cycle Speedway Championships on May 29 will be postponed until further notice, although its May 15-June 13 virtual rides will still continue.

OCBC head of group brand and communications Koh Ching Ching said that “all our cyclists will be reminded to ride safe and follow all safe management measures”.

The National School Games, which kicked off in March, will be suspended “to minimise intermingling of students across schools/institutions”, said the Ministry of Education. It will monitor the situation and explore resumption of the remaining competitions when conditions permit.

Professional sports leagues and events like the Singapore Premier League (SPL) will be allowed to continue for now.

The SPL’s two fixtures on Saturday will proceed, but the decision to allow up to 250 fans in stadiums to watch matches live – which commenced from April 10 – will now be rescinded.

Calling this an “unfortunate but necessary measure”, Football Association of Singapore general secretary Yazeen Buhari said: “Given the recent circumstances, we have decided all SPL matches will be held without spectators indefinitely and will ensure our swab-tested players and officials strictly adhere to the safe management measures in place during match days.”

Lion City Sailors fan Jeremy Wong said: “It’s disappointing because my friends and I have been enjoying recent SPL games at the stadiums, but the measures are understandable for the greater good and we will just make do with watching the games online.”

Similarly, it is understood that the One Championship Empower event that was scheduled to take place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 28 will also be a closed-door event.

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